One of my young children's favorite party games is "Red Light, Green Light," in which players stop or start running on command. Teenage parties are far less innocent, and deciding which gatherings are appropriate to attend is no game. The following are 10 guidelines to help your teen navigate the party scene, to know when to go and when to stop.

Green Lights

  • Party host's parents are visible and available.

  • Friends with the same standards as your teen are on the guest list.

  • Teen feels comfortable telling his parents who is attending and what will be going on.

  • Teen and parents devise an "escape route" beforehand to make an exit if needed.

  • Teen knows her own standards and is willing to draw a line in the sand.

Red Lights

  • Party host is someone your teen does not know.

  • Guests are suspected to drink alcohol or use drugs.

  • Mean girls, bullies or teens with questionable character are on the guest list.

  • Pairing off or uncomfortable displays of affection take place.

  • Pornography, gambling, association with the occult or anything illegal occurs.

Take a stand

Tyler, a popular high school football player, was invited to a party every Friday night after the game. Every Friday night he went home with his parents. He knew that if he attended the parties he would be placed in uncomfortable situations and found the best policy for him was to avoid the gatherings all together. He felt it best to stay as far away from the edge of the cliff as possible, rather than try to walk the line.

Whitney knows her own values and feels confident telling others where she stands. She chooses to attend parties but not participate in anything inappropriate. Both teens have learned to make clear demarcations and use good judgment about partying with their peers. Each has the support of their parents.

Make a family policy

Sometimes despite the utmost scrutiny and planning, parties go awry and teens are caught in compromising situations. Many families adopt a "no questions asked" policy where parents assure their child that they will come pick him up from a party and not grill him on what happened.

Other families put in place a well-timed phone call midway through the party where a parent can check in on how things are going. If their teen is uncomfortable in any way, she can tell her friends that her parent just called and wants her home. This gives her an excuse to leave without making a big scene or losing face. Still others opt to frequently host parties in their own home. This allows the teen to meet his social needs while accommodating parental preferences and expectations.

Teach about consequences


Parties are part of a teenager's experience and are meant to be fun, but young people need to understand that serious consequences can occur when parties get out of hand.

Pastor Gary Stevenson shares the story of John, a young university scholar studying in Japan who was invited to a party with other foreign students. While the party seemed harmless at first, soon guests were passing around marijuana joints, and John became extremely uncomfortable. Amidst peer pressure, he left the party just before police officers entered.

Any guest who even held the drug was presumed guilty, and most of the students were expelled from their universities and even convicted of a crime. John, on the other hand, was able to complete his courses in Japan and go on to become a profitable businessman and later a professor at a Japanese university.

Before your teen attends a party, discuss the consequences of inappropriate, immoral and illegal activities at parties and be clear about your expectations.

Compliment good choices

Taking a stand about parties requires courage and strength of character. Be sure to congratulate your teen on her good choices and express confidence in her ability to successfully handle the challenges associated with teenage gatherings.

Navigating parties may not be as simple as following traffic lights, but with a little teaching and planning your teen can find personal confidence and success while providing a great example to his friends along the way.

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