How to Throw a Party for Teenagers in Your Home
Are you crazy?
Are you seriously considering hosting a party for teenagers in your home? Perhaps for your church youth group? If you are determined to do this, after some serious prayerful consideration, read on for some helpful information to get you through. This is valuable stuff for a party of 3 teens or 30, girls, boys or both. However, unless you have a huge house and a paid staff, don't invite more than 20-25 teens. They tend to bring friends and being the good host that you are, you don't want to have to turn anyone away.
Have clear start and end times for your teen party. And when it's over, send them all home. If the teens need a ride, supervise them calling their parents. It is not your responsibility to drive everyone home. It is your responsibility to host a safe, and hopefully fun, party. I am not a big fan of turning a party into an overnight (for example, if it's your daughter's party and it's a boy/girl party, the girls stay over). A party is a party, an overnight is an overnight.
Every good party needs food. But for a teen party, it does not necessarily have to be good food. Simply food. If your budget could use a little help, ask the teens to bring food. It's cool. They will gladly do so.
Teens will bring chips. You might as well say "bring chips" because that is what they will bring when you say "bring food". Doritos, potato chips, Frito's, Cheetos, cheese puffs, chex mix, whatever their favorite chip is or whatever was cheapest at the store. (Except for the occasional teen who works at a food place of some sort. They just might bring something from their restaurant or bakery. This worked especially well for me when one teen brought cookies from my favorite specialty cookie store. She will get invited to our house for every party...until she quits her job.)
Don't bother to pour the chips into fancy bowls. The teens won't even notice. Just leave them in the bags. This makes it much easier to store the leftovers, if there are any.
Hot Junk Food
If you want to be a superhost, supplement the chips with something especially yummy and something served hot. Pizza qualifies, but can get pricey. Bagel bites, pizza roles, jalapeno poppers, any pre-packaged appetizer type junk food qualifies especially if it has to be cooked in an oven for 10 minutes.
Have vegetables. No kidding. There will always be a few girls and some boys who will devour a veggie plate with veggie dip. Some are serious athletes and value good nutrition, some are watching their weight, some eat so healthy at home that junk food makes them sick. Yay them.
Plates and Napkins
Have paper plates and napkins available. Cheap paper plates are absolutely fine as long as they have some strength to them. Plain napkins are also just fine. However, and this is important, have paper towels available and accessible also so that the teens can clean up their own messes. Just accept it as fact that something will be dropped or spilled.
If you happen to have paper party plates and napkins available, use them. But don't go out of your way to buy any. If you want to clear out a hodgepodge you have stashed, this is a great opportunity to do so. Some of the teens, girls anyway, will actually notice the various themes on your plates and they will love the randomness of it. Random is very big with teens.
NO ALCOHOL! EVER! NOT EVEN FOR ANY GROWN-UPS WHO ATTEND THE PARTY AS CHAPERONES!
Stick with cans of pop and bottled water. This makes clean-up much easier than having cups to deal with. Provide both diet and regular pop, but mostly regular, and stick to the brand names: Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper and...drum role please...Mountain Dew. The young teen crowd in particular is Mountain Dew crazy. You are the best host ever if you have plenty of Mountain Dew on hand. But beware! Teens use Mountain Dew as an excuse to become even more crazy than they already are...because of the caffeine.
Have trash cans easily accessible and most teens will use them. Have one clearly marked "trash" and one marked "recyclables".
Plan out what areas in your home the teens are allowed to use for the party. They must be areas you can access easily and you should walk through them often during the party. No privacy is allowed at your teen party except in the bathroom and only one teen at a time is allowed in the bathroom.
Do not bother to decorate. The decorations will just get destroyed. No crepe paper or balloons for teens. I have learned not to use Christmas decorations in our basement family room when I know we will be having a teen party. They get broken.
Your party space absolutely does not need to be fancy or even very comfortable. You just need room for fun. Think old fashioned "rec room" or even garage.
If you want your teens to behave in a reasonable fashion, you have to provide some activities to keep them busy.
For an indoor party: Pool, ping pong (especially cool with black lights and a strobe light), Foosball, RockBand or Guitar Hero, Wii, playing cards, board games (Apples 2 Apples and Quelf are excellent choices), musical instruments (piano, guitar).
With a big party, say over 10 teens, it's a good idea to set up zones for the activities. For example, we put the RockBand in the basement and the Wii in the living room. Divide and conquer!
Teens gravitate toward inappropriate websites when in groups, even youth groups. What begins with a harmless YouTube video turns into something more. Having said that, I wouldn't remove a computer from a party area unless it was painfully easy to do so, but keep a close eye on it. If you occasionally look over the teens' shoulders while they are on the computer, suddenly they're just not interested anymore.
Take lots of pictures, or if you don't want to, give your camera to a responsible teen, not necessarily your own, to take some snapshots. Today's teens are so used to have every minute of their lives documented. They will gladly pose for you. Even the shy ones like to see pictures of themselves. Post them on Facebook and they will "tag" themselves like crazy.
I am not a fan of large outdoor parties for teens at my house. There are just too many ways for them to get into trouble, even playing basketball! If you happen to have a large, FENCED yard with lots of outdoor activities, go for it. However, provide extra, extra supervision.
We have, on occasion, had a fire in our fire pit for teen parties. This has been reasonably successful as long as an adult supervises the fire pit non-stop. Teens like to burn things that don't belong in fire pits. They also like to cuddle around outdoor fires more than I am comfortable with.
Don't Let Them Leave and Come Back
We've learned this the hard way. Don't let them leave if they intend to come back. We haven't had to deal with teens trying to bring alcohol to our home. Thank the Lord! But we have had teens walk to the park (just what your neighbors want to see...a large group of teens walking down their street to the park where children play), smash pumpkins, play kickball in the street using the neighbors cars for bases, and, most recently set things on fire in the street.
I have to tell the fire in the street story. We recently had about 25 teens from our church youth group over for a Christmas party. They decided, in advance, to do a White Elephant Gift Exchange which was lots of fun. But afterwards, a few of the boys (usually reasonably well-behaved, yet sometimes mentally challenged boys) decided to take their gifts outside into the street to burn them. Silly us. We thought they were going outside to smash the rotten pumpkin one boy brought for his White Elephant Gift. We were kind of hoping someone would make that rotten pumpkin disappear so we were more lenient than we should have been.
Fortunately, no one was hurt in the street fire, except a stuffed frog, "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas" book and a bag of potpourri. Fortunately, our neighbors were not inconvenienced and no one called the police. And fortunately, we are now wiser than ever before and, next time, will not let them out of the house until it is time to GO HOME!
A Few More No's and Dont's
No smoking. Duh! To clarify...no teens OR adults smoking at the party.
No teens sitting on each other's laps. Period!
No teens sneaking off to anywhere in the house except the approved party areas.
Don't let the teens, especially the girls, drag you into their drama. Send the drama home to their mammas.
Don't hesitate to ask someone to leave if they are behaving inappropriately. Don't hesitate to call their parents.
Don't expect to have fun. If you do, consider it a bonus. Expect to be totally exhausted when the party is over and even the next day. Teens have a lot more energy than adults.
Your Role as Host
As the adult host of a teen party, you cannot do your job well unless you are totally uncool. Even if you are a cool person, for this, you must be uncool. Don't pretend to be cool, not even for an instant. Join in with the fun occasionally so that the teens see clearly that you are uncool. Uncool adult = in charge adult. First and foremost, you must always be in charge.
Have at least 2 responsible, in-charge, adults present at all times. If you are hosting a boy/girl party, you must have a man and a woman host. Just a little common sense.
Sometimes a teen party, even for your church youth group, needs to be nothing but fun. However, there are times you can work in a short Bible study or object lesson somewhere in the middle of your time together. An adult needs to lead it or at least help a teen lead it in order to get the teens to focus. Keep it short! 20 minutes is plenty. Close with prayer.
Our youth pastor stopped by for about an hour which the teens just loved. Of course, he was welcome to stay as long as he wanted, but we were the hosts, not him and he had his own young family to get home to. He was our guest. This was a time when the teens were our responsibility not his. For this, he was grateful.
Two Days Later
You will begin feeling like yourself again. Rested. Relaxed. Your sanity has returned. You know you did a good thing by hosting a teen party in your home. You can reflect back fondly...after all you don't plan to host another teen party again for at least...a decade? Praise the Lord!
For your teen party
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