Creating a social atmosphere for your teen and their friends can seem daunting. You want to create a safe environment while giving them space, promote lasting memories without damaging any valuables, participate in your teen’s enjoyment while letting them flourish independently, etc. Here are some common questions and tips that will help you bond with your teen and plan successful party.
Finding out how big this party is going to be is the first step. Let’s start with how many people will be attending so that you can budget your party accordingly. This is a good opportunity for your teen to learn management skills and to talk with you about their friend group. Gauging the size of your guest list can also help you pacify neighbors with a curfew, avoid unnecessary expenses, and coordinate rides for concerned parents.
Setting up your guest list ahead of time should be a priority. Working with your teen, you can set a maximum limit so this party doesn’t blow out of proportion. Whether the occasion is just for friends, your teen’s community service group, or a sports victory celebration, a headcount can give you important information for preparation. This includes how much food to buy, dietary restrictions, medical specifications, and accessibility accommodations.
Understanding who your teen will be inviting is also important so they can investigate who among their friends will make for good company and account for anyone who might feel left out if they’re not invited. Your teen can learn organizational skills and how to manage group dynamics at this juncture by coordinating the invitations themselves.
It can be uncomfortable for teens to turn away mutual friends that show up unexpectedly. Whether word got around to them through gossip or they happened to notice the gathering on social media, nobody wants to be told, “You weren’t invited.” You can respectfully turn away surprise add-ons to the guest list by mentioning the house’s limited capacity, inviting them back another time, citing narrow resources, or that you can’t allow anyone in that you don’t personally know. These are honest reasons that remove any personal rejection and save your teen blame for limiting the number of attendees.
Determining when your party takes place depends on your teen’s age group and what time of the week you’ve scheduled the event. You’ll need to consider everyone’s schedules around school, extracurricular activities, and religious commitments. It’s important to place your four-hour party strategically so that you can meet these needs and attend to any potential complaints from neighbors and strict parents.
13-14-year-old teens are still building good sleeping routines so it might be a good idea to situate their parties between 6pm and 10pm. Setting a 10pm limit will also give you plenty of time to drop kids back off at their respective houses if you are providing transportation.
Most 15-16-year-old teens typically have their high school schedules established and can probably gather from 8pm-midnight
While teens older than 16 can adjust to later hours, they shouldn’t start their party any later than 10pm. You don’t want to be kept up all night or receive any complaints from anyone in the neighborhood.
Teens have shown that four hours is just long enough for everyone to have gone through the stages of excitement, getting into discussions and activities, and creating lasting memories without feeling constrained to a short limit. You can enforce these boundaries in the invitation itself, with a soft reminder during the event, and a definitive departure announcement for your guests at the end. Establishing a four-hour limit will allow you to time to prepare, cleanup, and still feel like you’ve accomplished your goal of hosting a successful party.
Limit Spending for a Great Party
While you want your teen to enjoy themselves and set a good impression, you also want to keep the cost of this party within reason. There are plenty of venues, food ideas, and activities for you to explore that will help this gathering stand out from a typical hang out.
After you’ve finalized your guest list and coordinated timing, it’s time to figure out how much money you can afford to spend on this event. Bringing your teen into this phase of planning is a good idea so that they’ll acquire an appreciation for the monetary value of throwing a party and pitch in so they’re contributing to any expenses.
If your teen doesn’t have a source of income that would allow them to fund their social gathering, you may want to consider setting the event outdoors with an activity that doesn’t require any payment. Hiking, picnicking, or spending time at the beach can save on costs so you can focus on food and drink. If you set your party in a venue with admissions or a built-in cost such as a pool, a restaurant, a club, or a theme park, you can limit your spending by paying for just your teen alone.
Inexpensive Food Ideas
Planning a menu for a large group can be tricky because everyone has different tastes and preferences. Another benefit of setting the guest list early can help your teen take not of any dietary restrictions so no one is left out of the festivities. You can help your teen plan a party with healthy food ideas to add a theme and stand apart from prepackaged junk food.
Organizing a potluck can be a fun idea to get everyone participating in the party. If everyone brings their own food, you can keep the cost of your party in check while guests swap recipes and diversify the cuisine of the group.
BBQ is also an option that can be enjoyed in a public park or on the waterfront. Hamburgers and hotdogs are a party menu staple that are easy to prepare and can also be swapped out for vegan options.
Sandwich platters allow you to layer portable, customizable, easy-to-make meals with everything from vegetables to dessert ingredients. With sandwiches, everybody can get what they want, and any leftovers can be stored later use.
As the host of the party, you hold responsibility for the wellbeing of your teen and their friends. While you and your teen assemble the guest list, it’s important to take note of any dietary or medical needs as well as gender or racial disparities. Making sure that everyone has access to and knowledge of necessary medical equipment and feels comfortable is essential to any gathering.
To save yourself from any damage to the venue or regrettable encounters, go over any rules you might have early on with your teen and make sure that they’re clearly verified with each of your guests. For example, you can communicate an understanding that there will be consequences for anyone using drugs, alcohol, or treating anyone disrespectfully. Penalties may range from asking someone to leave to notifying law enforcement.
If your teen is allowed to drink with their friends, you can take several steps to create a safe environment. Hosting the party in an intimate space will allow you can keep an eye on anyone in case of an emergency or if someone tries to sneak in drinks. You can also control the amount of alcohol available by providing refreshments with a low ABV (alcohol by volume).
When you’re dealing with a group of teens in a party setting, things can get out of hand with noise levels or messiness. Call in for backup! Just because your teen has a bunch of friends over doesn’t mean you can’t as well. You can spend this time with some of your own friends or your guest’s parents, so the responsibility of vigilance doesn’t solely fall on you.
You can also ask older trusted neighbors, cousins, or friends of your teen to act as a chaperone. With someone you know who can handle emergencies and safety, you’ll be able to take it easier with an extra set of helping hands. Consider chaperones with different genders, social backgrounds, and abilities so they can attend to anyone with specific needs.
Getting home safely can be of concern to parents who are worried about teens driving while their tired or under the influence of alcohol. In the planning stages, your teen can figure out who is able to drive, who can commit to be a designated driver, or if you’re going to be dropping guests off at the end of the night. You can also supervise your guests’ exit to make sure that they are in good driving condition and that they have everything they need to get home safely.
Andy Earle is a researcher who studies parent-teen communication and adolescent risk behaviors. He is the co-founder of talkingtoteens.com, ghostwriter at WriteItGreat.com, and host of the Talking to Teens podcast, a free weekly talk show for parents of teenagers.