One of the most angst-filled situations parents face is when they are asked for permission by their teens to attend a party. That first time you let your teens go out, your mind is riddled with 60 Minute exposes and news clippings. You imagine the absolute worst. All those stupid teen movies that you used to laugh at now come crashing in, warning you to lock them in their room until they are in their mid-20s.
Relax. Most parties are fine. However, you have to learn to balance your parental discernment and intuition with the answers to a few simple questions.
Five questions to ask yourself:
Have I heard this child's name before and in what context?
If you haven't, don't panic. You can talk to your child about this.
Do I know this family?
Again, if you don't know them, you can learn more about them by asking friends. Just remember to consider who you're getting information from and use your own judgment.
What are they like?
If you do know the family, are they responsible? Involved with their kids?
How long have your teens been friends?
If your child and the host have been friends for a while, quickly re-examine their relationship and decide whether you feel comfortable with this idea of the party. Trust your gut instinct. If they are new friends, you may have to ask more questions.
Do I trust my child at this moment?
There are times when behaviors wax and wane. Is your child in a good place right now? Is she rebelling? Is she pushing the envelope? A little pushing is essential to becoming independent, but if she is really pushing it, consider whether this is a good time for her to be going out.
Five questions for your teen:
Who is going to be there? How many people?
Your child should have some idea and if he doesn't, have him find out.
Will parents be there supervising?
While there comes a time to trust that your teen knows what she is doing, in the beginning, this is a good clue to what kind of party it will be.
Is this a party just because, or is it to celebrate something? What?
It doesn't really matter one way or the other, but asking it will make your teen think about it.
How late will it go on?
There should be an answer to this and it should be reasonable.
May I have parents' names and the phone number?
This should not be a problem if the party is on the up and up. Your teenager shouldn't mind giving this information out to you. He may roll his eyes and huff, which is in a teen's job description, but ultimately, should give you this information.
If it comes down to not knowing anything about the family or the child or the circumstance surrounding the party, you may have to bring out the big guns and discuss things that need discussing anyway. These questions are actually good to discuss starting years before your children are teenagers. Try playing the "what if" game with your kids when they are young so that they have time to think about negative situations and formulate solutions for themselves before they happen. Here are some to get started with.
5 questions to discuss before your child is a teenager, or if you have concerns about the party in question.
What will you do if there is alcohol or drugs there? How will you react?
Will you feel comfortable saying "no" to these things?
Will you feel comfortable leaving the party and coming home?
What if people start pairing off and making out? How will you feel?
If you were told the parents would be home and you get there and they are not, how will you handle it?
There is a fine line between hovering and trusting. But you, as the parent, have been equipped with God-given gifts of discernment and good judgment. Trust yourself and your instincts. Periodically interview your kids to see how they are doing. A little one-on-one now and then will give you lots of good insight into where they are. Then, give them space and trust accordingly. Eventually, all children will need to face situations head on and know how to handle them.