Should I let my teen stay out all night?

Q: I’m afraid to let my daughter stay out all night after graduation. She doesn’t want to go to the school sponsored “lock-in.” Should I let her?

A: First, think about what you are afraid of most – is it that she might drink alcohol, take drugs and drive or ride in a car with someone who has been drinking? I would guess that that is the biggest fear most parents have. Another might be getting too close to her boyfriend and going too far sexually.

I hope that, by her senior year, you know your daughter well and the two of you have established some communication and trust between you. Some of what we talk about on graduation night goes beyond trust; it includes protection. You may want to talk to your daughter about protection, not only from herself, but the poor judgment of others.

If she isn’t planning on going to the school lock-in, why isn’t she? What has she heard about it? Who does she know that is planning to attend? Why did they think it was OK? As you get her opinions on the school event, it might give you some ideas of what she is looking for in making her graduation night special.

Has your daughter thought of any other plans? Most importantly, whom does she want to be with? And secondly, where does she intend to go and what does she want to do?

If she has a clear plan, then you may find yourself in support, with a few reassurances built in. You may have the expectation that should she be at another person’s house, you would talk to the parent hosting the get-together.

I expect you don’t support her going to parties where the parents plan to allow the kids to drink. Checking out that assumption is critical. With your daughter, you may have certain check-in points during an evening as well. The check-ins may involve you calling the house where she is supposed to be, as well as her cell phone.

As a parent, you know when teenagers are at the greatest risk. It is when they are drinking and doing drugs, and when they are driving. How can you trust her judgment on those points? You probably already have rules about drinking and driving.

Many parents make an agreement with their teenagers that they will pick them up anywhere at anytime, punishment free, as long as they don’t drink and drive or ride in a car with someone who is impaired by drugs or alcohol.

I hope that you’ve already talked about the dangers of abusing drugs and alcohol. I hope you’ve had similar conversations about sex.

You might consider hosting a party for her and her friends if they don’t have another parent-sponsored party to attend.

If you decide to host a party of your own, just as you would set rules for her whenever she went out, you would have party rules for your home, too.

As much as possible, let your daughter and her friends design and plan the party. If they feel it is theirs, they are more likely to have fun, send out the energy that this is a good place to be, and create a win-win where you feel safe and they are having a very special night.

Think about ways that you want to support the party. Is it through fun foods, party favors, decorations, games, or other things they think of for that night?

As you decide on the party itself, determine the basic structure: is it films & popcorn, bonfire with toasted marshmallows, a sleep-over (single sex or mixed), etc.? Be sure to make it clear that you want all parents of kids attending to understand it will be chaperoned by a roving parent appearing from time to time.

And when the night comes, be sure to follow up on your commitment and randomly make sure all is well. One parent I know threw mattresses all over a floor and had movies going. Another had a pool party, and a third had a karaoke player.

If your daughter doesn’t have any clear plan and just wants to hang out all night long, you have a decision to make. Do you support that? Would you say “no” to all night but, since it is graduation, extend her regular curfew?

Don’t apologize if you decide to suggest that she attends the school party, host a party, or go to one at a friend’s house and are unwilling to allow for an unplanned and unchaperoned evening. It is our job to protect and love our kids.

I hope both of you have a great graduation!

Categories: Teens, Tweens & Teens