Avoid the party down-ers

Tips for avoiding teen party disasters

Tips for avoiding teen party disasters

May 26, 2009|By BETH J. HARPEZ

NEW YORK -- With the season on for proms, graduations and other end-of-school celebrations, not to mention beach parties, barbecues and outdoor gatherings, here are some tips for keeping teen parties safe and fun.


"The key to a successful event is to be organized with a theme and set activities," said Steve Kemble of Steve Kemble Event Design in Dallas, which plans celebrity and corporate events. "You cannot simply just invite a bunch of teens over with no real focus to the gathering and expect them to remain well-behaved."

Involve kids in planning from the start. "They create, plan, set up and clean up the party," said Richard Marotta, headmaster of The Garden School, an independent K-12 school in Queens, N.Y. "In short, they own the event. Yet we always have adults present to ensure that nothing gets out of control."


This generation loves to dance -- including boys, who in past eras were often wallflowers or awkward dancers. "Today it's totally hip -- the cooler you are as a dancer, the more popular you are," said Richard Blau of Chezzam Event Group, a Syosset, N.Y.-based event planning company.


Depending on space, budget and the occasion, you may want a DJ. If not, an iPod with speakers will do.

Either way, "music should be on from the moment the event starts," Blau said. "The volume and vibe may evolve, but you definitely want a very hip vibe from the moment the kids arrive to capture their interest."


Themes can transform spaces, inspire activities and make events unique. At The Garden School, kids once turned the cafeteria into a coffee house for a fun Friday night. Kemble, the Dallas-based planner, suggests a "Titanic" night with formal dress; a costume party with prizes, or for girls, a spa or salon night with stations for nails and hair.

Blau, of Chezzam, says that "a fortune teller can be hip and fun, and we've also brought in body-painting with henna, glitter and rhinestones."

Another option: casino themes. "Right now kids are really into poker," Blau said. "But you don't have to have an expensive set-up. Just get some funny money or chips and playing cards."


Karaoke, Wii and "Dance Dance Revolution" can be fun at parties. But "you need to be a little careful," Blau said. "Electronic stuff is so addictive, and you don't want kids so focused on something that they're not dancing. A Sweet 16 or graduation should not be hanging out in your den on a laptop."


Teenagers "might raid the fridge at home, but at parties they tend not to eat," said Blau. "Give them food that's fun that they can grab on the fly."

Think finger food: Chicken wings, sushi (including vegetarian cucumber and avocado rolls), mini-hot dogs, pizza, watermelon, pineapple chunks on a stick, chips, dips, popcorn.

Tweens and bar mitzvah-age kids "will have fun with mocktails," Blau said. But Shirley Temples are not so appealing to older kids. For high schoolers, Blau suggests a bar with 10 different gourmet sodas, or a juice bar with mango, papaya and other tropical options, perfect for a green-themed party.


Adults must be present, and they "need to make certain that they maintain control of the space," said Marotta.

Require kids to check bags at the door to keep out drugs or alcohol. Even water bottles can be filled with vodka.

But Blau says security can "be done in a cool way. If you go to a hot nightclub, there are bouncers at the door with a red velvet rope. Have a parent or chaperone or hired security person at the door with a typed alphabetized guest list. If you're not on the VIP list, you don't get in."


Car accidents are the No. 1 cause of death for teenagers. "During prom and graduation party season, some of the most dangerous teen driving scenarios all play outt," said Kate Hollcraft, a spokeswoman for Allstate Insurance, which offers a Parent-Teen Driving Contract to help families discuss rules and risks.

Consider these facts from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

Among male drivers ages 15-20 involved in fatal crashes, 38 percent were speeding and 24 percent had been drinking. Among 16-to 19-year-olds who died in car accidents, only 40 percent of drivers and 31 percent of passengers wore seatbelts. Crash risk also goes up with the number of teens in the car.

"Many parents incorrectly believe that if their teen is sober, they are safe," Hollcraft said.

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