My youngest son turns fourteen this month. In addition to the usual party requests of cake and presents with his group of buddies, Seth wants to invite girls.
It’s not a surprise that he wants to include all his friends from middle school. These are the years when kids begin to show an interest in the opposite sex. Co-ed dances or gatherings at school are safe environments, but the thought of hosting a group of young teens at my house seemed like asking for trouble with a capital T.
Before I put down a deposit with a DJ and ordered cake to serve 40, I made certain just what kind of party Seth had in mind. That’s when I realized that organizing a teen boy/girl soiree isn’t the same as planning for a bunch of 5-year-olds. I’d have to do more than rent an inflatable jump, blow up balloons and make sure there was plenty of rocky road ice cream to go around. Not an impossible task—it would just require a bit more strategy.
There are many things to consider, but here are the top six I addressed before the party started:
Can Your House Handle It?
Ask yourself if your house big enough to hold a group of your teen’s friends. Is there space for dancing? What areas (like bedrooms) will be off limits? Will partygoers get noisy? Then you need to notify your neighbors of your plans. Remember, most municipalities require that you lower your music by 10 p.m.
When Will It Start?
...And, more importantly, when will it end? Agree on a reasonable length of time for the party. Consider issues such as noise and how guests will get home. Ask your teen to let each guest know that the party will definitely come to a close at the agreed time. (That’s when the music stops and you start putting the food and sodas away.)
Be strict about whether you will be allowing teens to return if they have left. If they told their parents that they’re at your house until 11 p.m., then that’s where the need to stay.
Batten Down the Hatches
Experienced party-planning parents suggested hiding or locking up anything you want to protect. So plan some extra time to put aside breakable items and valuables before the guests arrive. Set aside a “safe” room at the party where guests can put their coats and bags.
“One of the most important things we found out was that we had to make it clear to both parents and kids we would be there the entire time,” said mom Elaine Payne. Payne, who has two teenage sons, recently hosted a birthday/dance party for her son, Jason. “My husband Jeff and I retreated upstairs and watched a movie, but frequently we’d go downstairs for the proverbial ‘glass of water’ and to check on how the party was going.”
Of course you are going to be there the entire time, but you don’t have to stick out like Shaquille O’Neal at the ballet. As Payne suggests, blend in the background. Keep your distance while maintaining a watchful eye. Consider asking another set of parents to join you in the chaperoning duties. It’s nice to have reinforcements.
Get the Music Started
One of the easiest ways to make a teen party a hit is to hire a DJ. You’ll want the DJ to know and bring along all of the latest popular songs. Ask if he has ever hosted a teen party. He should have the skills and personality to get the group dancing and participating.
The Same Old Song
Let the teens choose their own music. Even if it just sounds like a lot of noise to you, as long as the lyrics aren’t offensive, let them enjoy. My mom never liked Led Zeppelin, but she still let me play their albums. So, even if you find 50 Cent’s music annoying, just for this night, tune it out. But you do have control as to how loud they play the edited version of “In Da Club.”
“Keep the food simple,” advises Payne, “just like you did when the kids were little.” Pizza, taco bar, nachos, giant sandwiches, burgers and hot dogs are all winning menu items with teens. Scatter bowls of munchies such as candy, licorice, popcorn and nuts around the party area.
Just remember, with the right mix of planning, supervision, freedom and restraint, your teen’s party can be a low stress success.
Claire Yezbak Fadden, the mother of three sons, has seen her party-planning skills mature as her boys have grown. All that’s left now is to plan a rehearsal dinner.