Teenager Coed Party: When Should I Allow my Teen to Attend?
By: Frances Brooks, Events Coordinator
Sadly, peer pressure exists for parents, too. Just because Joe and Stephanie let their child attend, it does not mean you have to let your teenager go. They say they’re dying to go, but like many of the questions which face teens at this age, you know your teen better than anyone else. Trust your judgement and try to block out their pleas to be included with what “everyone else is doing.”
Co-ed party invitations often begin in elementary school, a birthday party or group activity to the movies is not uncommon. Let’s be honest, once kids hit puberty parental concerns may change. No longer does mom stick around to watch all the presents be opened, or see what cute games will be played. Often your teen wants you to drop them off and pick them up once the festivities are all over. And, the house party may not start until long after dinner is over.
Understand Your Teenager and Their Decision Making
Evaluating your teen’s judgement, as well as how much you trust the hosting parents largely play into this decision. If this is unclear, maybe consider the following:
- Do you feel comfortable leaving your teen at home alone? You are essentially trusting another parent to step in and monitor your child and keep them safe. But let’s be honest, parents do not all have the same standards. Some parents are not as strict as others. If you’re not comfortable with them by themselves, a coed party may not be the best plan at this point.
- Would you allow them to have a boyfriend/girlfriend over for some hang time at your house? Again, if this makes you uncomfortable, this may not be a good time to drop them off elsewhere.
If both of these questions are met with an unequivocal ‘yes!’ there still may be a couple of points to consider. Like any function you allow your teenager or child to attend, consider how well you know the parents and where the party is being held. Our family has different thoughts on if the party is in a friend’s home, or at the local bowling alley, ice rink, or laser tag arcade. Feel free to ask to speak with the parents before agreeing that your teen may attend the event. If they are unavailable, don’t return phone calls, or the interaction gives you pause in any way – this is valuable information when deciding to entrust your son or daughter in their care.
Ask the Tough Questions Before you Say Yes
Do not be afraid to ask if the parents will be present and what the plans include. Ask if food and drinks will be served. What about alcohol? The Surgeon General2 reports nearly one-third of teenagers begin drinking before age 13. Does the invitation include a sleepover? If so, be sure to confirm sleeping arrangements and activities planned during the latest hours. Many parents openly share your concerns about co-ed parties: the illegal use of alcohol, or unprotected or oral sex are sadly all too common in headlines across the country.
After reviewing your comfort level with the host parents, this is a good time for you and your child to have a conversation about drugs, alcohol, decision-making, and peer pressure. This should include sex, dating and relationships. Most tweens begin talking about “going out” with members of the opposite sex between 9 and 12-years old. This is an excellent time to discuss emotions and romantic relationships.
Set Rules and Boundaries for your Teenager
If you decide to allow their attendance, establish clear rules and expectations with your teen. These may include texting at set times during the party, or planning for a pickup should they become uncomfortable. Consider how this opportunity helps to communicate the trust you have in your child. Do not be afraid to tell them this! In spite of their occasional rolled-eyes and stinky-attitudes, tweens and teens are still learning. These opportunities allow for you to affirm character qualities you believe to be important.
Researchers1 share there are benefits to mixed gender parties. They allow your teen to come to understand how relationships work, how to interact with others in a social environment, and to begin to strengthen their confidence by relating to others in a new situation. It certainly is challenging at times to be a parent. In the end, the decision is yours; after all, you are the parent. No matter which way this party rolls, it is fairly likely they will receive another invitation. It is not the end of the world, in spite of what they may tell you!