How to Chaperone a Teenage Party
By Steve Calechman
As the parent of a teen who wants to host a house party, you’re ultimately in control. But your bigger job here is to teach your child all the life skills that come with it – planning logistics, managing social interactions and dealing with the unexpected. Jeff Bostic, M.D., child psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, has these tips on overseeing the fun:
Your child has probably never organized a party, so go through the planning basics: the time, number of guests, food and drink and activities. This will provide structure and help your child realize what goes into creating a successful get-together.
Have her pick out and set up decorations, move furniture and put out the food. The more she’s invested, the more likely she’ll clean up a mess and stop a problem.
Talk beforehand to avoid surprises and build an alliance. Let your child know that you’ll walk through several times an hour – vary it to avoid predictability – but that he’ll be in charge. Set up a help signal – a touch on the nose, the phrase “wild party” – something that doesn’t draw attention from guests. Whenever he gives it, walk out, come back a few minutes later and tell him you need his help in the kitchen; then go there to discuss the issue.
Greet people at the door. As the parent, you want to eyeball everyone and let them know that an adult is around. But other than a simple greeting, don’t engage. It’s your kid’s night, not yours.
When you walk through the room, just scan the action; don’t talk. “You are not the cool person by definition. Your child is the cool person. You just need to be the wise, sage person and stay out of it.” If you see a potential problem, give your child a chance to address it, and, if she doesn’t, subtly pull her out of the room. Address the immediate issue in no more than five minutes and never say, “I’ll take care of it.” Help her figure out the solution by asking about options and consequences. Only step in if she asks you to.
Review the next day. Keep it fun – you’re not looking for dirt, just going over what did and didn’t work. Party-hosting is like riding a bike. You can’t do it for your child and it takes a while to master. “Part of the fun is navigating the goofy stuff that happens.”
Steve Calechman is a freelance writer in Salem.