Tuesday, April 12, 2011

If Its Spring, It Must Be Party Time

I just finished watching the local 6 PM news and there were two stories tonight about teens finding empty houses to party in over the weekend.  The cops were called and when they arrived at the party hundreds of kids scattered, and they managed to arrest 30 or 40. When the cops got to the house,  the rooms were filled with lit candles in precarious candle holders... a fire waiting to happen. When the kids started running, one of the girls fell and impaled herself on some kind of junk that was lying around the yard. She was airlifted to a city hospital and is in serious condition.  Apparently kids cruise neighborhoods to find homes where occupants seem to either be away, or houses that are up for sale and on the market and most importantly, completely empty. Oy vey, another lesson in the creativity and chutzpah of teens. For those of you who are not familiar with the yiddish word, it's a much nicer way of saying the kids have "balls". Sorry for being crude, but in this particular situation crude seems to fit.

So what is going on here?  Have our teens totally lost their moral compass? Not all of them, just the ones who come up with the initial idea. The idea of breaking and entering into a stranger's home would not be something most teens would find appealing.  But once the word gets out there is a party, all caution is thrown to the wind. Teens are texted an address by someone they know. They are not given particulars like, "party at abandoned house, be cool." An address is given, the boos are pilfered from either their own homes or their friends homes,  they hop into the party mobile and head for the address, no questions asked. Once they get in the house, they might question "whose house is this anyway?" But no one really seems to know or care, and they move on to the business of partying.

As a parent of a driving teen, whatever are you supposed to do? At age 17 the idea of calling a parent to see if they are home is pretty useless, because teens don't generally have much of plan on a Saturday night. They may start at a home where the parents are home, but then they are off, maybe to go to dinner, or "a movie" or what ever story they have chosen to tell their parents during the hourly phone check-in. Its pretty impossible to ever know the exact location of driving teens. The work than is to help your teen anticipate nights like this, play out potential consequences, and work on strategies to help them stay safe.

A conversation using this recent news story might go like this: " I just listened to the news, I heard about two different communities in which kids partied in empty houses. Cops got called, alcohol was found,  huge numbers of kids got arrested, and one girl who fell while running from the cops is seriously injured. I' m guessing that this is a scenario that you might find yourself in. I get how you and your friends might think that this could be an awesome thing, partying in a house that no one lives in. But these kids could have started a fire with all those candles, being too drunk to pay attention, and then when they are caught, a girl is seriously hurt. All in all, doesn't sound like it ended up being all that much fun. Hard to explain to parents, and coaches and potential colleges why and how you now have an arrest record, or at the worst, you lose the use of your leg while running from the police. Honey, this scares me to death. These are situations you are going to have to make your own decisions about. And I know in the moment, they might be hard to make, but there is nothing more important to me than your safety. Please let's think about how you could handle this kind of thing." And until they have thought this through with you, no car on the weekend. You can't be guaranteed your teen will follow through on this plan, but at least it is in his/her head, and some alarm bells might go off, and some attention paid to the situation.

Yes this is scary stuff. Time to get the heads out of the sand, and face what potential dangers there could be lurking. The best you can do is help your teen think, and plead with them that you love them, and absolutely could not bear it if something happened to them. A little guilt never hurt.

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