Planning and Hosting Teen Parties as a Single Parent

girl on stepsMy youngest just turned 14 and we missed her birthday weekend because of this darn flu. Second year in a row that it’s kicked her down and she’s missed a week or more of school. Next year I’m definitely going to push daily vitamins, lots of extra vitamin D and oodles of overprotective personal hygiene into her daily routine and hope that helps. This year, however, we missed it entirely.

Her birthday lands right in the middle of the Consumer Electronics Show every year, so I almost always miss the day because I’m in Las Vegas. The upside this year was that I didn’t miss her birthday since it ended up being delayed.

I know, a fairly mediocre upside when you have a sick child, but she’s about 95% better now and so we have started planning for her delayed birthday party instead. As I talked with her about our plans and how I set up my house to host the party and subsequent girls-only sleepover, I realized that might be quite an intimidating task for a lot of single parents and particularly for single dads who might still be relatively new to this solo parenting thing.

Here’s how I figure things out with my girl: First, I always have it end earlier than she’d like. For a group of 13 and 14yo teens, I figure that 9.30 is plenty late enough given that we’re starting mid-afternoon and that their parents have to come get them. Time parameters are a big one for me, I don’t want a horde of tired teens transitioning into more and more stupid dares and activities as the night goes on.

Secondly, rather than worry about meeting all the dietary needs of everyone in her class and circle of friends, I simply share with parents what we’re going to be serving and then say in the invitation “We’ll supply snacks and food, probably a few pizzas, but if your child has specific allergies or avoids specific foods, please consider having them bring their own to avoid any disappointment!” I’ve learned the hard way that parents don’t always communicate exact food allergies or preferences, which can leave a child feeling hungry and left out when they’re vegan or gluten free and we haven’t anticipated it with our snacks and treats.

I also have long since laid down the law that there is no mixed-gender sleepover. Period. I’ve never hosted something like that, nor would I expect my daughter to ever be invited to a sleepover that included boys. If she was, I would pick her up that evening and not let her spend the night. I know the statistics and that’s non-negotiable until she’s heading off to college. Or even later! 🙂

phones in basketOne change I’m going to make in our party planning this time is to have a basket at the front door and insist that everyone put their phone in the basket for the duration of the party. From experience, that forces the children to participate and do things together, rather than focus on selfies, games or other antisocial activities. I know, you’re saying “why would they come to a party just to sit in the corner and play on their phone?” to which I answer “have you seen the life of the modern adolescent recently?”

K- and I will work together to plan snacks, beverages and the inevitable pizza for dinner – I prefer to get everything hours in advance and bake-your-own pizza from somewhere like Papa Murphy’s can be ideal and won’t break the bank. Then I’ve always made the upstairs (everyone’s bedrooms) and basement (unsupervised, dark rooms? No bueno) off limits, so the party can proceed on the main floor of the house. Having gotten it all figured out, I then generally make myself scarce, hanging out in the master bedroom watching a movie, some TV or otherwise being present without being omnipresent.

Then it just works out magically that every hour or two I find some excuse to head downstairs to get a glass of water, check on the pizza cooking process, and otherwise eyeball what’s going on and where everyone is. The winter isn’t very inviting for outdoor activities like volleyball or basketball, but I won’t be surprised if a group of kids are bundled up and playing one or both anyway.

The final step? Relax. If your child’s like my kids, they’re good, smart, and know what is acceptable and what’s going to lead to trouble, so I don’t really have to worry much at all. Then the end time rolls around and kids head out. Done. Phew!

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