Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Keeping Your Teen Safe on New Year's Eve

Keeping Your Teen Safe on New Year's Eve
Tips To Make Sure the Big Party is Good For Your Teen
by Brian Housman

Even for teens that typically make good decisions, New Year’s Eve can become a night of bad choices. From party hopping to excess alcohol to poor adult supervision--a New Year’s Eve Party might be a parent’s worst nightmare.

There are several reasons why "good kids" end up doing bad things on New Year's. One is the cultural/social mystique associated with New Year's Eve. Generations of movies, TV shows, and school gossip have built up the New Year Eve party as the end all of parties. It's sort of like the mid-year prom where everyone is expected to hook up with someone, drink lots of alcohol, and dance the night away. All the build up puts pressure on teens, particularly girls, that "I must have a date" or at the very least be kissed. And who cares if you like him or not at least Father Time didn't find you all alone.

The second reason to be careful of New Years is because many teens see it as a release from the norm and excuse to do things out of the ordinary. A teen might think, "I've made great grades this semester. I deserve to live it up for a night," or even "So what if I drink too much. With all my friends around nothing will happen to me." The problem is not one normal kid who ends up doing something foolish. It's the culmination of so many of them at one time acting foolish that causes problems.

Look for a Way to Say "Yes" to Party

Just because it is a potentially dangerous night doesn't mean teens shouldn't be allowed to party. But perhaps you can party in a different way than what we saw in the movies growing up. Or worse, what we did ourselves growing up.

Who your teen parties with and where the party is is not as important to him/her as the fact that they want to party period. So instead of letting them wander out the door with their friends why not keep them at your house. If my son asks me if he can have his own New Years Eve party or go out with his friends to a party, my answer will always be, "Heck yeah, let's have a party here!" I would much rather him play host to a bunch of his friends, and me be the invisible servant, than I would him be anywhere else. I know it will get the house messy and I know I will be up late and I know I won't get as much sleep but believe me it is MUCH BETTER than the alternative.

Another option is to have a multifamily party. The past three years our family has jointed together with a dozen other families to have an incredible New Years Blast. The adults take over the living room for games, food, and conversation while the teens and kids herd themselves off in another part of the house for their own party. It's been so much fun being able to spend the New Years with friends knowing that my kids are having a great time on their own just a few rooms over. This way we all arrive together, we all go home together, they get space to have fun their own way, and EVERYBODY IS SAFE.

If your teen going out to a party without you is the only option, then there are some things you must do to make this as safe as possible. Sit down with them before agreeing to let them go. Explain that him/her having time with friends is important to you as well but you want to make sure it is a positive experience for all. Having him get left at a strange house while his friends moved on to another party is not a positive experience. Nor is you having to sit up until 2AM worried if everything is okay. He has to first agree to some common sense safety tips. Explain that you expect these to be followed not because you are a stick in the mud but because these are things any responsible person would do. Make them look you in the eyes and say with their mouth that they agree to these simple measures. Print these off for your teen. Read over them together. Maybe even have them initial each one as a way I saying, "I agree."

Teen Tips for New Year's Safety

_____ 1. Know Your Destination.
You must know where you are going, how you plan to get there, and when you plan to arrive. Your parent needs a phone call when you arrive so they know you got there.

_____ 2. Stay Off the Road.
Traffic accidents are the #1 cause of death among your peers. We all want you to have a great time and not become a statistic. Even if you are a safe driver, it's not you that is the problem. It's all the other people out there out there who drank a little too much.

_____ 3. Alcohol is Off Limits.
For one it is illegal for you. Two, of all nights for you to possibly drink this is the worst. The pressure for you to fit in, party like there is no tomorrow, and to "hook up" with someone are a bad recipe to add alcohol to. Every year there are more than 50,000 alcohol related sexual assaults toward teens and young adults. We don't want you to be one of them.

_____ 4. Don't Accept Drinks from Others.
This is not about alcohol. It is about any kind of drink. It is now a common practice at large parties for drinks to get "spiked" with everything from alcohol to illegal and prescription drugs. The best bet is to take your own water bottle and only drink from it. If you drink something at the party, pour it yourself. If you put it down for any reason and come back, get a fresh drink.

_____ 5. Leave With Who You Came With
This is a great way for your group to watch out for one another. Get everyone in your group to agree together that you all leave together. This also helps one of your friends from getting talked into "hooking up" with someone, leaving without anyone knowing, and regretting it forever after.

_____ 6. Call If You Change Locations.
Except for an emergency you should stay at the same place. No party hopping. Hopping from party to party only puts you back on the road with the "crazies" and creates an escalation in your mind that the next party has to get bigger and better. This leads to people (or you) creating unsafe scenarios for fun. If for some reason you have to leave for another location, call your parent so they know in case there is an emergency.

_____ 7. Call As You Head Home
Mom and Dad don't care what time it is (even if you missed curfew), they want to know when to be expecting you. If hours go by without a call from you, then they will worry. Remember all of these tips are so this party is a positive experience for everyone

_____ 8. Look Out for the Safety of Your Friends
Even if you are doing everything right doesn't mean all your friends (or other guests) will. Make sure no one is trying to take advantage of your friend or trying to get them to do something stupid. If your friend does drink do not, repeat DO NOT let them leave with keys in their hand. In that moment it's not about you being popular. It's about making sure your friend makes it home.


Here is a recent interview I did on FOX News GMM talking about these safety tips. Feel free to forward this posting to other parents of teens. Let's make sure this New Years is safe and positive for all of our teens.