LISTEN: Teaching Empathy & Compassion

Empathy starts with understanding other people’s emotions and feelings. Kids have to get in touch with their own emotions and feelings first. You can’t understand emotions unless you communicate face-to-face. Talk through what could help others feel better so your child understands how others feel. Then, expand your child’s experiences through travel and reading, and encourage community involvement.

Want to learn more? CLICK HERE to listen to podcast with host Melanie Cole, MS.

 

Communicating Beyond the Family

The communication skills your child learns will affect the way he interacts not only with you but with the world at large. These skills will help your youngster to negotiate, solve problems, and learn from others. Communication can also be used to praise, punish, express feelings, and provide insights and under­standing.

The way you communicate is part and parcel of what you communicate. Done well, communication is how you convey love, acceptance, respect, and approval to your child. Providing praise, for example, is not just saying words. It requires that you understand how your child thinks about himself and his behavior, and knowing when and in what way you can share with him your pride, so that he is best able to hear you and accept what you are trying to say. Successful communication is a two-person process, not merely one person saying something to another. If you consistently communicate well with your child, he will know that you think well of him. Not only will this nurture your relationship with him, but it can help him grow, develop, and live up to his ca­pabilities as a person.

Unfortunately, too many parents do a poor job of expressing this accep­tance. They may think: If I tell my son that in my eyes he is just fine the way he is, he won’t be motivated to work harder and do better in life. But in fact, chil­dren do better once they feel relieved of the pressure of having to win their parents’ approval. Rather than constantly judging and criticizing your child, let him know that you accept and love him. In turn, he will begin to like him­self more, and his self-esteem will grow.

Make an effort to communicate this acceptance through both words and ac­tions. Yes, you can demonstrate your feelings in nonverbal ways through your body language, including your facial expressions, hugs, and gestures. But you also need to say it.

Too often, parents choose ineffective, nonaccepting ways to communicate verbally with their children. They might give commands (“You’re going to do it as I say or else!”), lecture (“When I was a boy, I had twice as many chores as you”), or preach (“You must never behave that way again”). Or they might crit­icize (“You are doing everything wrong today”), ridicule (“You looked silly when you struck out”), or belittle (“Someone your age should know better”).

Be positive and accepting in the way you talk with your child. Offer praise often and be as specific as you can (“You did a wonderful job solving that dif­ficult problem in your math homework tonight”). Let him know how much you appreciate him as he is, without his having to struggle to resemble your own preconceived notions of how you want him to be (“I was so proud just watch­ing you run in the track meet today”).

You can also demonstrate acceptance by not involving yourself in some of your child’s activities. For example, if you just let him paint without giving him advice on what colors to mix together, this will convey the message that he is doing just fine on his own. In much the same way, you can listen quietly to your child at times, without interjecting your own thoughts and comments that might contradict or correct him.



Source: Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Gratitude As A Life Skill

Check out this video from Go Strengths: Nik receives an assignment in school to write down all the things he is grateful for in his Gratitude Journal. He has a hard time thinking of things to be grateful for, but when his friend Sam gives him a pair of GoGoggles!, he sees the world in a different way. He realizes there are many things around him that are part of his everyday life for which he can be grateful.

Go Strengths is an online resources for parents, teachers and mental health professionals that focused on eight skills for wwell-being: goal-setting, problem-solving, resilience, optimistic thinking, character strengths, emotional intelligence, social connections, and self-confidence. Click here to learn more.

Encouraging Teens to Take Responsibility for Their Own Health

As children mature, they may become increasingly reluctant to share health concerns with Mom and Dad; partly out of modesty and partly to assert their independence. That is why teenagers need a pediatrician in whom they can confide.

Now is also the time for teens to learn to become savvy medical consumers. They should be encouraged to schedule their own doctors’ visits and to ask questions anytime they don’t understand something the pediatrician has said. Where health matters are concerned, there is no such thing as a “dumb” question. Every patient, regardless of age, is entitled to clear explanations of her condition and the recommended treatment plan.

Above all, adolescents need to be coached on the importance of taking medications as directed. If there is one source of frustration for pediatricians, it’s their young patients’ lack of compliance (although as Dr. Kulig, M.D., M.P.H. points out, “compliance among adults isn’t much better”). In one study of children suffering from throat infections, more than 80 percent failed to finish their antibiotics, which had been prescribed for ten days. Presumably, most of them started to feel better after several days and figured they could stop taking the medicine. But we know that the entire course of antibiotics must be completed in order to fully eradicate the infection. Otherwise, the bacteria regain a foothold, stronger than ever, and the symptoms return.

Teens may also resist following doctors’ orders as a display of rebellion. Dr. Kulig advises that parents monitor their youngster’s compliance, but without assuming the mantle of responsibility. The most successful strategy, he’s found, “is to solicit kids’ input about how to best stick to medication schedules, rather than demanding, ‘You must take this medicine.’ ” He offers several tips:

To eliminate confusion, post a calendar on the refrigerator and place a check mark in the appropriate box each time the medication is taken. Or purchase an inexpensive plastic pill holder, in which oral drugs are stored according to the day of the week and daily Sunday through Saturday, and dose (morning, afternoon, evening).

Have the teenager take the medicine at the same time as one of his daily rituals, like brushing his teeth. “It becomes a cue for compliance,” explains Dr. Kulig. “When they brush their teeth in the morning and at night, they remember they need to take their medicine.”

Practice positive reinforcement. Praise your adolescent each time he adheres to the medication schedule.

Remind young men and women why a medication has been prescribed. “Adolescents should understand the purpose of the therapy as well as the potential consequences of noncompliance,” says Dr. Kulig. “They should also be aware of how long they may have to be on the medication before they can expect to see optimum results.

“For instance, some acne medications can take upward of twelve weeks to start working. If a teen gets discouraged and discontinues the drug, obviously the acne won’t get better. Likewise, if he grows impatient and overuses it, he may irritate and dry out the skin.”

Another reason for supervising young people’s consumption of medicines is that some drugs have the potential for abuse, whether they’re prescribed or over-the-counter. “Tylenol is a good example,” says Dr. Kulig. “Too high a dose can basically destroy the liver.” Most overdoses of nonprescription agents are taken intentionally, as part of suicide attempts, but excessive amounts can be ingested accidentally. “Teenagers,” he stresses, “are not aware of how toxic these products can be.”

As a precaution, it’s wise to never leave a family member’s medication out where it can fall into the hands of an inquisitive child or a teenage pal looking for a “legal” high. According to Dr. Timothy Wilens, a pediatric psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital, also in Boston: “Most prescription drugs are abused not by the kids for whom they’re prescribed, but by other children. All containers should be stored away, with each dose administered individually.”

Questions to Ask the Pediatrician Before a Teenager Starts Any New Medication

  • What are the medication’s generic name and trade name?
  • What is the purpose of using this medication?
  • How often should the medication be taken, and at what time(s) of day?
  • What is the dosage?
  • Is it necessary to swallow this medication with food or milk?
  • If your youngster has difficulty ingesting pills, ask if the medication can be crushed, or if it comes in the form of a liquid, skin patch, rectal suppository, inhaler or nose spray.
  • Are there any foods or beverages to avoid while on this medication?
  • Will the drug interfere with other medications my child is taking, or vice-versa?
  • List for the pediatrician all medications your teenager takes, including over-the-counter agents, nutritional supplements and “natural” herbal remedies.
  • What should we do if we miss a dose?
  • For how long must the medicine be taken? Does my child have to finish the entire prescription?
  • Does the prescription include refills? If so, how many? What should we do if we need a new prescription ordered?
  • What are the potential side effects of this drug, and which ones should we report to you?
  • If side effects occur, how will they be managed?
  • When will we be able to tell if the medicine is working?
  • How much does the prescription cost?
  • Is there any written information available about the medication?

Source: Caring for Your Teenager (Copyright © 2003 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Helping Your Child Cope with Conflict

Help Children Act Calm

  • Let them know that it takes more courage to walk away from a fight than to stay and fight.
  • Teach them that fights don’t solve problems—they make new ones.
  • Remind them that when they get mad but don’t fight, they have really won.

Sometimes, getting along with other kids is hard. Some kids:

  • Get into fights when they are angry.
  • Get teased a lot.
  • Encourage others to fight.

This can make your child feel bad or get in trouble. Teach your child how to deal with anger and stay out of trouble.

Everyone Gets Mad

Anger doesn’t usually last a long time, but it is a very strong feeling when it happens. Children get mad when:

  • Their feelings are hurt or they can’t do what they want.
  • Others don’t understand them or lie about them.
  • They feel left out or others don’t act the way they want.

When children are mad, their bodies react:

  • Their hearts beat faster and their faces feel hot and sweaty.
  • It might be hard to breathe and they can’t think clearly.
  • They have a lot of energy and want action.

When children are angry, it is:

  • Good to put their feelings into words.
  • Not good to hit someone, break things, or say things that hurt.

Teach Your Child to ACT CALM

When children get mad, they can ACT:

Acknowledge – Acknowledge angry  feelings.Notice changes in their bodies.

Calm down – Breathe deeply, count t o 10, or walk away.Punch a pillow, run, or play music.

Think and talk – Think about the problem and ways to fix it. If someone doesn’t know what children are trying to say or do, they need to explain themselves.Talk with someone about being mad and ways to fix  the problem without fighting. If there is nobody to talk to right away, stop and think, “This is why I’m mad and what I need to do is …”

If someone tries to start a fight, your child can be the one to stay CALM:

Calm down – Keep a safe distance from the other person. Take slow, deep breaths. Stay alert and stand tall.

Avoid – Avoid name-calling or returning insults. It only makes things worse. Avoid other kids who may want to fight. Try to talk in private with the kid who wants to fight.

Listen – Calmly listen to what the other kid says. Ask, “What does this person really want?”

Move on – Find ways to solve the problem without fighting. Use humor. “I wouldn’t want you to catch my cold.”Give a reason.  “We’ll both get thrown off the team if we fight.” Walk away. If nothing else works, it’s best to walk away.

Children do what they see others do. You are your child’s most important role model.

If your child is still having trouble getting along with other kids, talk with your pediatrician.


Source: Connected Kids: Safe, Strong, Secure (Copyright © 2006 American Academy of Pediatrics) The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Talking to Children About Tragedies & Other News Events

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After any disaster, parents and other adults struggle with what they should say and share with children and what not to say or share with them.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) encourages parents, teachers, child care providers, and others who work closely with children to filter information about the crisis and present it in a way that their child can accommodate, adjust to, and cope with.

Where to Start – All Ages
No matter what age or developmental stage the child is, parents can start by asking a child what they’ve already heard. Most children will have heard something, no matter how old they are. After you ask them what they’ve heard, ask what questions they have.

Older children, teens, and young adults might ask more questions and may request and benefit more from additional information. But no matter what age the child is, it’s best to keep the dialogue straightforward and direct.

Avoiding Graphic Details & Exposure to Media
In general, it is best to share basic information with children, not graphic details, or unnecessary details about tragic circumstances. Children and adults alike want to be able to understand enough so they know what’s going on. Graphic information and images should be avoided.

Keep young children away from repetitive graphic images and sounds that may appear on television, radio, social media, computers, etc.

With older children, if you do want them to watch the news, record it ahead of time. That allows you to preview it and evaluate its contents before you sit down with them to watch it. Then, as you watch it with them, you can stop, pause, and have a discussion when you need to.

Children will generally follow good advice, but you have to give them some latitude to make decisions about what they’re ready for. You can block them from seeing the newspaper that comes to the door, for example, but not the one on the newsstand. Today, most older children will have access to the news and graphic images through social media and other applications right from their cell phone. You need to be aware of what’s out there and take steps in advance to talk to children about what they might hear or see.

Talking to Very Young Children
The reality is that even children as young as 4 years old will hear about major crisis events. It’s best that they hear about it from a parent or caregiver, as opposed to another child or in the media.

Even the youngest child needs accurate information, but you don’t want to be too vague. Simply saying, “Something happened in a faraway town and some people got hurt,” doesn’t tell the child enough about what happened. The child may not understand why this is so different from people getting hurt every day and why so much is being said about it. The underlying message for a parent to convey is, “It’s okay if these things bother you. We are here to support each other.”

Talking to Gradeschool Children & Teens
After asking your child what they have heard and if they have questions about what occurred during a school shooting, community bombing, natural disaster, or even a disaster in an international country, a parent can say something such as:

“Yes. In [city], [state]” (and here you might need to give some context, depending on whether it’s nearby or far away, for example, ‘That’s a city/state that’s pretty far from/close to here’), there was disaster and many people were hurt. The police and the government are doing their jobs so they can try to make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”

A parent can follow-up as needed based on the child’s reactions and questions.

Talking to Children with Developmental Delays or Disabilities
Parents who have a child with a developmental delay or disability should gear their responses to their child’s developmental level or abilities, rather than their physical, age. If you have a teenage child whose level of intellectual functioning is more similar to a 7-year-old, for instance, gear your response toward her developmental level. Start by giving less information. Provide details or information in the most appropriate and clear way you can.

Talking to Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
What’s helpful to a child with an ASD may be different. For instance, the child may find less comfort in cuddling than some other children. Parents should try something else that does calm and comfort their child on other occasions. Ask yourself, “Given who my child is, his personality, temperament, and developmental abilities, what might work for him?”

Signs a Child Might Not Be Coping Well
If children don’t have a chance to practice healthy coping, a parent may see signs that they’re having difficulty adjusting. Some of things to look for are:

  • Sleep problems: Watch for trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, difficulty waking, nightmares, or other sleep disturbances.
  • Physical complaints: Children may complain of feeling tired, having a headache, or generally feeling unwell. You may notice your child eating too much or less than usual.
  • Changes in behavior: Look for signs of regressive behavior, including social regression, acting more immature, or becoming less patient and more demanding. A child who once separated easily from her parents may become clingy. Teens may begin or change current patterns of tobacco, alcohol, or substance use.
  • Emotional problems: Children may experience undue sadness, depression, anxiety, or fears.

Sometimes it can be hard to tell if a child is reacting in a typical way to an unusual event or whether they are having real problems coping, and might need extra support. If you are concerned, talk to your child’s pediatrician or a mental health professional or counselor.

Don’t wait for the signs. Start the discussion early, and keep the dialogue going.


Adapted from an eHealthMD interview with David Schonfeld, MD, FAAP, Director of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement and member of the AAP Disaster Preparedness Advisory Council. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Your Family Rituals

Every family should have activities that they enjoy together and that become a regular, predictable, and integral part of their lives. Some can be serious pur­suits, like attending community functions or religious services as a family; oth­ers can be more lighthearted, like going fishing. Whatever they are, they can help bond a family together. These are some rituals that many families have made parts of their lives:

Important Conversations
Communication between parents and children should be a top priority in your family. Set aside time to talk, discussing the day’s and the week’s activities, sharing feelings and really listening to one an­other.

Respect the privacy of each of your youngsters as they begin to assert their independence during these middle years; they may have certain problems and difficulties they may not want to divulge to their brothers and sisters. You should be able to have a one-on-one conversation with each child without all the other children listening to it. If you honor his wishes for confidentiality, this can build trust between you.

Some families establish a weekly time for a family meeting. When everyone is present, family issues, relationships, plans, and experiences are discussed, and everyone from the youngest to the oldest gets a chance to be heard and to participate.

Recreation and Cultural Activities
Family recreation is an important way to strengthen the family. Sports (participation and spectator), games, movies, and walks in the park are good ways to increase cohesiveness and reduce stress.

Cultural activities can be valuable too. Visits to museums, libraries, plays, musicals, and concerts can expand the family’s horizons and deepen appreci­ation for the arts.

Shopping
Shopping trips can provide regular opportunities for parents and children to spend time together. Whether you are grocery shopping or buying birthday gifts, these excursions can be fun and exciting for youngsters in mid­dle childhood. Let your children make lists, find items in the store, carry the bags to the car, and unpack them once you return home. Allowing your child some choices and assigning some meaningful responsibilities can help build his self-confidence.

Reading and Singing Aloud
Reading and singing aloud as a family promotes feelings of closeness and an appreciation for music and books. Parents should find out what stories their children like to read, and what music they like to lis­ten to. It is lots of fun to take turns reading aloud, and to let the children hear the stories and songs you enjoyed when you were growing up.

Holiday Traditions
These are another source of fun family activities. By learning about the history, significance, and rituals of a particular holiday, chil­dren will feel a greater sense of involvement in the holiday preparations and celebrations.

Spiritual Pursuits
For many families, religion plays an important role in pro­viding a moral tradition, a set of values, and a network of friends and neigh­bors who can provide support. Attending services is something family members can do together.

You do not necessarily need to go to a church, synagogue, or other place of worship regularly, however, to share moral values with your children and help them develop a sense of their history and the continuity of the family. Many families develop a strong spiritual life without the formal structure of orga­nized religion.


Source: Caring for Your School-Age Child: Ages 5 to 12 (Copyright © 2004 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Constantly Connected: Adverse Effects of Media on Children & Teens

​Today’s children and teens are growing up immersed in digital media. They are exposed to media in all forms, including TV, computers, smartphones, and other screens.

Media can influence how children and teens feel, learn, think, and behave.
What We Know:

Here are facts about digital media use.

  • Almost 75% of teens own a smartphone. They can access the Internet, watch TV and videos, and download interactive applications (apps). Mobile apps allow photo-sharing, gaming, and video-chatting.
  • 25% of teens describe themselves as “constantly connected” to the Internet.
  • 76% of teens use at least one social media site. More than 70% of teens visit multiple social media sites, such as Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram.
  • 4 of 5 households (families) own a device used to play video games.

Why It’s Good to Unplug:
Overuse of digital media and screens may place your child or teen at risk of

Obesity. Excessive screen use, as well as having a TV in the bedroom, can increase the risk of obesity. Teens who watch more than 5 hours of TV per day are 5 times more likely to be overweight than teens who watch 0 to 2 hours. Watching TV for more than 1.5 hours daily is a risk factor for obesity for children 4 through 9 years of age. This is in part due to the fact that viewers are exposed to advertising for high-calorie foods. Viewers are also more likely to snack or overeat while watching screen media.

Sleep problems. Media use can interfere with sleep. Children and teens who spend more time with social media or who sleep with mobile devices in their rooms are at greater risk for sleep problems. Exposure to light (particularly blue light) and stimulating content from screens can delay or disrupt sleep, and have a negative effect on school.

Problematic internet use. Children who overuse online media can be at risk for problematic Internet use. Heavy video gamers are at risk for Internet gaming disorder. They spend most of their free time online, and show less interest in offline or “real-life” relationships. 4% to 8% of children and teens may have problems limiting their Internet use, and almost 10% of US youth 8 to 18 years of age may have Internet gaming disorder. There may be increased risks for depression at both the high and low ends of Internet use.

Negative effect on school performance. Children and teens often use entertainment media at the same time that they’re doing other things, such as homework. Such multi-tasking can have a negative effect on school.

Risky behaviors. Teens’ displays on social media often show risky behaviors, such as substance use, sexual behaviors, self-injury, or eating disorders. Exposure of teens through media to alcohol, tobacco use, or sexual behaviors is associated with earlier initiation of these behaviors.

Sexting and privacy and predators. Sexting is sending nude or seminude images as well as sexually explicit text messages using a cell phone. About 12% of youth age 10 to 19 years of age have sent a sexual photo to someone else. Teens need to know that once content is shared with others they may not be able to delete or remove it completely. They may also not know about or choose not to use privacy settings. Another risk is that sex offenders may use social networking, chat rooms, e-mail, and online games to contact and exploit children.

Cyberbullying. Children and teens online can be victims of cyberbullying. Cyberbullying can lead to short- and long-term negative social, academic, and health issues for both the bully and the target. Fortunately, programs to help prevent bullying may reduce cyberbullying.

Children today are growing up in a time of highly personalized media use experiences, so parents must develop personalized media use plans for their children. Media plans should take into account each child’s age, health, personality, and developmental stage. All children and teens need adequate sleep (8-12 hours, depending on age), physical activity (1 hour), and time away from media. Put together your family media plan today!


Source: Digital Media and Your Children and Teens: TV, Computers, Smartphones, and Other Screens (Copyright © 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.


Teaching Gratitude

gratitude

In her article “12 Tips for Teaching Children Gratitude,” Dr. Kathleen Berchelmann offers ways to teach children gratitude and create a more joyful home. “Kids are naturally materialistic and self-serving,” she explains, “but the good news is that gratitude can be taught. And from gratitude flows joy.”

Here are a few of her suggestions:

  • Surprise them! Avoid too many choices: Surprises help children see something as a gift, not an entitlement. Having too many choices breeds unhappiness– you are always wondering if you could have something better.
  • Talk about the best parts of your day. Find some time each day to talk about what you are thankful for– perhaps at the dinner table, before bed, or while you are driving in the car. Ask your children, “What was the best part of your day?”
  • For older children, try keeping a gratitude journal. Gratitude journals have been shown to be an effective approach to helping children be happier: One study had 221 sixth- and seventh-graders write down five things they were grateful for every day for two weeks. Three weeks later, these students had a better outlook on school and greater life satisfaction compared with kids assigned to list five hassles.
  • Help your children serve someone who does not “need” charity. It’s great for kids to participate in scout food collections and other community charity programs, but these events only occur a few times per year and you rarely meet the people you are serving. Find someone in your everyday life for your children to serve regularly, even if this person doesn’t really need charity. We have a neighbor who lives alone and appreciates our left-overs so she doesn’t have to cook for one person. Our kids love to bring her food. One night they were all griping about how they didn’t like the dinner I made, until I asked them to bring a plate to our neighbor. Suddenly all the complaining stopped and they were out the door with her food, eager to have the opportunity to serve her.
  • Say “Thank you.” Teach young children to say “thank you” as part of a full sentence, for example, “Thank you, Daddy, for making dinner.” Encourage school-aged kids to say thank you throughout the day, especially when you help them get ready for school or drive them to activities. Have them thank coaches for practice and music teachers for lessons.
  • Teach “‘Tis better to give than to receive.” Even toddlers can buy or make gifts for others: Take young children holiday shopping at the dollar store. Challenge them to pick out gifts for others without buying something for themselves. It’s hard!

Kathleen Berchelmann, MD, FAAP, is a pediatrician at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine, and an official spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. Kathleen is the co-founder and director of ChildrensMD.org, a blog written by five dynamic mom-pediatricians who share their true confessions of trying to apply science and medicine to motherhood. Kathleen and her husband are raising five children.

Click here to read her complete article on fostering gratitude in your home.


Last Updated 11/23/2015. Source Copyright © 2015 Kathleen Berchelmann M.D., FAAP. The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

A Parent’s Guide to Teen Parties

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As a parent, you know the importance of your teen’s social life and that parties are a way to socialize and relax. But an unsupervised or poorly planned party can result in unwanted or even tragic consequences. However, parental responsibility is the key to a fun and safe party.

The following is important information from the American Academy of Pediatrics about teen parties.

Facts about Teen Parties

  • Guest List. When a teen plans a party, news spreads very quickly via social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter. Because of these new media, teen parties can grow too large for parents to control.
  • Time and Place. Teen parties often start late at night and move from house to house.

Facts about Alcohol and Drugs

Teens often expect alcohol and marijuana at parties. Some parents believe that it is better to allow teens to drink in their home so they can keep them safe. While this idea may be well intentioned, it is simply misguided. Parents cannot keep impaired teens safe.

Alcohol and other drugs impair judgment. Teens are more likely to have sex, be involved in a violent incident, or suffer an injury after using drugs or alcohol. All too frequently teens die from violence, unintentional injuries, or overdoses related to alcohol and other drugs.

Alcohol affects teens differently than adults. For example, compared with adults, teens are more likely to remain awake, to wander about, or to drive a car while having a much greater degree of mental impairment.

What Parents Need to Know

Communication and honesty are important to keep your teen safe. Teens whose parents talk with them regularly about drugs and alcohol are 42% less likely to use substances than those whose parents don’t. Tell your teens that you expect them not to use alcohol or other drugs at parties.

Parent networking is the best prevention tool to combat underage drinking. Get to know your teen’s friends and their parents. If your teen is planning on going to a party, call the parents to ensure that they will be home and that they will not allow drugs or alcohol. If this is not possible, don’t let your teen go.

Parents are legally responsible for anything that happens to a minor who has been served alcohol or other drugs in their home. If anyone brings alcohol or other drugs to your home, be prepared to contact their parents. And if someone comes to your home already intoxicated, make sure that they get home safely. Help your teen feel responsible for this as well.

Parents may be criminally or civilly liable if…

  • Alcohol is provided to a minor at a party they have organized.
  • Someone’s property is damaged.
  • Someone is injured.
  • Someone leaves and gets into a car accident and/or injures someone else.
  • Someone dies.

Understand the local laws about alcohol and other drugs. Laws about alcohol and drug use vary from state to state, so make sure you know what the laws are in your state.

If You Are Hosting a Teen Party…

  • Plan in Advance. Go over party plans with your teen. Encourage your teen to plan non-alcohol-related group activities or games.
  • Keep parties small. Ten to 15 teens for each adult. Make sure at least one adult is present at all times. Ask other parents to come over to help you if you need it.
  • Set a guest list. The party should be for invited guests only. No “crashers” allowed. This will help avoid the “open party” situation.
  • Set starting and ending times for the party. Check local curfew laws to determine an ending time.
  • Set party “rules” and your expectations. Discuss them with your teen before the party. Rules should include the following:
  • No tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs.
  • No one can leave the party and then return.
  • Lights are left on at all times.
  • Certain rooms of the house are off-limits.
  • Have plenty of food and non-alcoholic beverages available. Also, put your alcohol and any prescription or over-the-counter medicines in a locked cabinet.
  • Be there, but not square. Pick out a spot where you can see what is going on without being in the way. You can also help serve snacks and beverages.

If Your Teen Is Going to a Party…

  • Know where your teen is going and how long he will be there. Have the phone number and address of the party. Ask your teen to call you if the location of the party changes. Be sure to let your teen know where you will be during the party.
  • Call the parent of the party host to make sure a parent will be home the entire time and supervising the party. Make sure that tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs will not be allowed.
  • Talk with your teen beforehand about how to handle a situation where alcohol is available at a party.
  • Make sure your teen has a way to get to and from the party. Make it easy for your teen to leave a party by making it clear that he can call at any time for a ride home. Discuss why he might need to make such a call. Remind your teen NEVER to ride home with a driver who has been drinking or using other drugs.
  • Be up to greet your teen when he comes home. This can be a good way to check the time and talk about the evening.
  • If your teen is staying overnight at a friend’s house after the party, verify this arrangement with the friend’s parents and that they will be home.

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The AAP Committee on Adolescence and AAP Section on Adolescent Health would like to thank the AAP Committee on Substance Abuse and AAP NY Chapter 2 Committee on Adolescence for their assistance in developing this publication. Last Updated 5/5/2015. Source A Parent’s Guide to Teen Parties (Copyright © 2010 American Academy of Pediatrics). The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.

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