You may or may not be Jewish, but probably if you have kids in 7th or 8th grade they will either be having a Bar or Bat Mitzvah or be going to one. Traditionally this Jewish ritual is a rite of passage for a 13 year old boy or girl signifying the acceptance of religious responsibility. It is also the time for a "kick-ass" party.
This blog is really a two parter. First I want to give a few tips for those parents giving the party. And PS, you don't have to be Jewish to read this. Often 7th or 8th grade is the year many teens start to have co-ed house parties, Halloween parties, and birthday parties. So read on Macbeth!
Many Bar or Bat Mitzvah parties are HUGE. Because kids want to be inclusive, or want to feel really popular for a night(which they should), they invite everyone they know. Parties can number up to a hundred. Oy Vey! Not only are these kids psyched to be "partying" but they lack the experience, manners, and protocol of how to behave. They are wild animals let out of the zoo for the night. Girls are wearing pretty, new and probably sexy little party dresses, and boys are ...well boys.
First, keep them busy. Because this is an awkward age, these young teens lack confidence and finesse, and would just stand around staring at each other, or look for alternative entertainment (if you know what I mean). You need to provide activities, direction, and most of all supervision. Keep them herded in one space, and make sure they are not out roaming around the hotel or party space. Make sure the route to the bathrooms are supervised, as well as the bathroom themselves. That means having someone on bathroom duty. Stuffing up toilets, boys sneaking into girls bathrooms, and vice versa, and impromptu spin the bottle games have been known to pop-up in the most unlikely spaces. Adult party goers often leave half filled glasses of gin and tonics or wine strewn around the party space, so beware that kids will often make a game of sleuthing around picking up said glasses and try to get sloshed. I have had many parents tell me stories of "party games" and by this I mean blow-job games under the long tablecloths decorating the kids table. Girls duck under, and play the game stone-face. For the uninitiated the rules of this game include a girl giving a blow job under the table and everyone else guessing who's getting it. The job of the recipient is to look stone-faced while being pleasured. OK I know this is grossing you out, scaring and terrifying you, and probably won't happen, but knowledge is power. Being prepared and making sure these young party goers are safe and have fun is worth it. Have a short table cloth. Remember that these young teens are "playing" at being grown-up. It is exciting and wonderful and a bit scary, not knowing exactly what is expected of them. So anticipate, understand, and prepare!
OK, part 2. Sending your young teen off to their first few boy/girl events is exciting. Seeing them dressed-up in their finery is a rite of passage. They need your help to anticipate the evening, whether its a grand party in a hotel, or a get-together at a friend's house, it may be without precedent. They may have misinformation about how they are supposed to behave mostly gotten though conversation with their friends. Kids might try to sneak alcohol in if it's at someones house, or they may have heard "stories" probably just someones fantasy or exaggerated tale of what goes on at these events and worry that they may have to participate in activities that they don't want to, but aren't sure how not to. They are extraordinarily self-conscious and can feel embarrassed and humiliated at the drop of a hat, and they need your help to anticipate and plan for unexpected situations. Middle School kids are such a mixture of those kids ready to party, and act older, and other kids uncomfortable with this whole party business, but were invited, and want to go, but wish they could just sit with you and hold your hand all night...metaphorically speaking. You might say: " I am so excited for you, this will be so much fun and I get that there might be stuff going at this party that you might not know how to deal with. So lets come up with some potential scenarios." ( I had a parent tell me that her 12 year old daughter attended a Bat Mitzvah party at a large hotel, got freaked out when kids were playing spin the bottle and hid in the bathroom all night) Come up with alternatives about what they could do instead, including a fast and face-saving way to reach you to come and get them if they need you too.
Remember, your kids are engaged in many "firsts" during these early teen years. They have absolutely no experience in handling themselves in this new stage of life, and need advice and direction. This is an exciting time, but sometimes, fantasy does not equal reality. To life...L'chaim