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Parents must be parents when teens want to party

Will Wooton, Director of Pacific Treatment Services, writes for Pomerado News and is the and co-author of “Bring Your Teen Back From The Brink.” PTS is a substance abuse company working with teens and young adults.

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Parents must be parents when teens want to party
Poway has been quite the focus in the news due to a party resulting in a parent’s arrest and plenty of controversy. Just about every news medium has covered the story and any details made known to the public are out. While I can’t add any new information, I can from experience discuss the impact of these types of parties and how they affect teens.

With parties and similar activities (bonfires, party buses, etc.) there is one constant that happens most of the time — they very quickly can get out of control. With social media, the word of these events spread like wildfire with a large number of teens from the surrounding areas showing up with whatever party favors they choose. The hosts often have little control over what happens once they arrive.

Very few parents host parties with the intention of causing harm. I’ve never had a parent tell me that it was their intent to have drunken teens at their home, yet it happens far more than most realize.

Each week there are parties and often with the parents’ consent. Some parents would never allow a party at their home. They understand the potential for harm despite having only good intentions. Others blindly believe they can set rules and that their teen (and all the others that find out about it) will respect those rules. Often, but not always, these parents fall into the “trying to be cool” category. They want their child to walk the fine line between the wild partier having the time of their life, yet not go too far and cross an invisible line. While their intentions matter, the outcome matters more. Sending blurry messages about what’s acceptable behavior affects the community, not just their child.

As I’ve often said, you are not your child’s friend and you have a parental responsibility to let them mature in a healthy time frame.

Teens have a relatively small amount of time (compared to adults) to establish their perceived world views. Each experience adds tremendously to their outlook and future decision-making. If they attend high school parties of an adult nature filled with sexually charged themes, drugs, and alcohol, then that very quickly becomes the “norm” to them. Even without alcohol and drugs at the party, many partake prior to attending and the party becomes a place for them to stay in an intoxicated state.

For those who believe that my stance is too strong or kids will do whatever they want regardless of a party or not, I invite you to go to your local high school and talk with the counselors on a Tuesday. Ask them how many rapes or overdoses they dealt with on Monday from weekend parties that parents allowed. I can tell you firsthand how heartbreaking it is to deal with these kids once it turns bad. All of them believed that “it was only a party” and “that’s what high school kids do” and “we are almost grown up and can make adult choices.” Sadly they can’t handle the outcomes of these events.

It is not a lack of caring that parents hosting these events have, but simply a lack of understanding. If you choose to host environments where teens meet up, you better make sure you are willing to be accountable for what happens to them. That means all of them, not just the ones you invited. Often you will have a situation where drugs and alcohol turn up.

If you’ve hosted high school parties in the past and can say “But Will, we never had that happen to us and we’ve hosted many parties,” I would be willing to challenge that you were simply unaware of what the kids were actually doing when you turned around or before they arrived. You can pick up the rattlesnake only so many times before it bites you.

Wooton is director of Pacific Treatment Services and co-author of “Bring Your Teen Back From The Brink.”
Website: PacificTreatmentServices.com.