I know it's spring because I did my inaugural spring walk yesterday in my favorite town woods and sure enough signs of partying teens were everywhere; bonfire remains, vodka bottles, wine coolers and empty beer cans galore! Lord knows on the east coast we have all been huddled in hibernation mode, and I totally get that the first warm night is something to celebrate!! But beware parents, now with warmer weather, spring vacation and the summer not that far off, party time is here!! This is a true story that a brave parent made public a few years ago about her attempt to have a safe party for her teenage son. There are so so many lessons to be learned from this story.
I won't retell the story, this mom does a great job doing it for herself. So these lessons won't make much sense until you read the story. Read and then re-join the blog!!
1. Just because you tell your teen no alcohol and drugs are allowed at the party, doesn't mean there won't BE any drugs and alcohol. And the only way you will know is if you are a presence.
2. Numbers are important. Never have more teens at your home than you can actively supervise. This mom is lucky no drunk teen fell into the pool. Your teen should have to provide you with a list, and entry to the party is always through the front door. Any other exits and entrances to the house should be closely monitored.
3. Teens will stash the booze earlier in the day in shrubs and bushes around the house, so they won't be seen carrying anything in.
4. Understand that teens are impulsive and incredibly motivated to party hearty. Respect for you and your home gets lost in the mayhem.
5. I did a whole blog on this, but please DO NOT give your teen an UBER account. I know on face value it sounds like a sensible idea. How great that your teen will have a safe mode of transportation when they or their friends are otherwise compromised. YOU ARE THEIR SAFE RIDE!!!! When your teen chooses UBER over you, you have ceded complete control for their safety. They can now freely move from party to party, continuing to drink without fear of consequence. And if they are going to houses with no supervision and on to a sleep over and no responsible parent driving them,, or awake when they get there, how will anyone ever know if they are close to being passed out!
A Parent called me recently about her 15 year old daughter who had been at a sleepover, a home this parent felt completely comfortable with. This mom had a sister who lived on another coast and time zone who was up early doing an instragram catch-up with her morning coffee. Low and behold she is seeing a live instagram feed of her niece at 3:00 AM in an UBER with her sleepover buddies coming back from an all-night diner run!! Sleepover parents none the wiser!!! She called her sister later in the morning and said hey, I saw Brunhilda at 3 AM in an UBER, was she on her way home from a prom or something?
No there was no prom!! Just a bunch of 15 year old girls who at 3 AM were STARVING. Having an UBER account at their disposal, why not head out for some chow!!! This is scary on so many levels. Immature kids out at 3 AM with a strange UBER driver, out at an all night diner with who knows who, and thinking the whole thing is HYSTERICAL!!! Out goes any judgement they might have had! UBER accounts are for you, and if there is a special occasion you are unable to pick your kid up, you order the UBER from your phone and make sure all is safe. THAT IS YOUR JOB!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
6. Roving party goers. It may be that your teen starts off at one house, BORING....and moves on to another and another and never tells you. Many parents have asked me whether they should put tracking apps on their teen's phone. There is something about that makes me really uncomfortable. Teens are all about independence and knowing that mommy and daddy are tracking their every move feels smothering to me. However, having said that, I do think it is OK to say to your teen: "I want to let you know that I have the ability to track you when you are out with your friends. I don't want to do that, I want to put you in charge of your life and your choices. The way you show me you are responsible is to keep me up to date on location changes, and together we will make a decision about whether it's OK. But if you choose not to keep me updated and I find out that in fact you have been on the move without letting me know, than we will start to track you, and then I hope you won't be surprised if we show up uninvited to pick you up. As for that sleepover caper, that may be a time when you tell your teen that you get that sometimes when kids are at sleepovers, and the parents are asleep, it seems like a fun idea to skip out for an adventure in the middle of the night. This is unsafe for a multitude of reasons. So if you are in that situation, and your friend with an UBER account says: "hey lets go get some food", you can say;" my stupid ass parents have a location app on my phone and if they see I've left your house they will call your parents. Then we'll all be in so much trouble. How about I make us all some pancakes!!!"
7. And finally. Do not EVER buy for or provide alcohol for your teenager and their friends thinking that if they drink in your home with what you have bought them they will stay safe. That is naive and dangerous!! First of all it is illegal!! Most states have a social host law that punishes adults with fines and jail time if they fail to protect minors from alcohol and drugs, by providing them with alcohol or if they are being consumed by teens on your property with or without your permission. Also and equally as important is the assumption that if I as an adult buy the beer for my kids, I'll keep them safe in my home and know exactly how much they drink. First of all, it is not your permission to give to another parents child! And second, all your teen is hearing is we have permission to drink at my house.!!! Awesome!!! They do not differentiate between a the six-pack you bought them and the gallon of vodka that sits under a couch that they snuck in during the afternoon when you were off doing errands, or the partying they might have done before they got to their "fun house". You have no idea the condition these kids are in before they get to your house. This is a dangerous precedent to set. Our job as adults is to do the best we can to keep our kids safe, not enable them to be unsafe. You will always be giving your teens a mixed message; I don't want you drinking and doing drugs, and I get that you will be in many situations in which they will be present. Let s figure out how to keep you safe. The last words out of your mouth every single time your teen leaves for a hang with their friends, should be; "What is your safety plan for tonight!"