How to Celebrate a Teenager's Birthday

A group of teens enjoy a movie during a birthday celebration
A group of teens enjoy a movie during a birthday celebration | Source

If the teenager in your life is anything like mine, you won't get a straight answer to the question, "How do you want to celebrate your birthday?"

Teens are often concerned about appearances, and the last thing they want is an event drawing a lot of attention to them. At the same time, most do desire (even if secretly) that their special day is acknowledged.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to plan a birthday celebration that will not subject your teenager to embarrassment... if that is possible (it is). Keep in mind that a teen's interests can change as quickly as a mercurial mood. So, factor in some flexibility and definitely do not forget your sense of humor when it comes to planning a party!

Here's what you can expect to learn about in this article:

  • Initial considerations to make when planning
  • Birthday party ideas
  • Things not to do at your teen's birthday party
  • A reminder to keep it age appropriate
  • Thinking beyond the party
  • A reminder to have your teen help and prepare for the birthday

Read on to learn more!

How to celebrate a teenager's birthday -- don't forget the sweets!
How to celebrate a teenager's birthday -- don't forget the sweets! | Source

Initial Considerations

When planning a teen birthday celebration, remember that there are some key initial considerations to be had.

  • Individual preferences. First, don't forget to consider their individual preferences, their personality, and their interests. Some kids are very social and outgoing, while others are not. In fact, your child may even prefer to keep the birthday celebration very low key. For example, when my oldest turned 14, he asked that the "extra money" we would have spent on a party be put into an electronic device he wanted as a gift. Instead of inviting friends to come celebrate his birthday, he requested that we go out to dinner as a family and have his favorite dessert at home.
  • Give yourself time. On the other hand, if a birthday bash is what your teen wants, try to give yourself at least a month ahead of time to determine the number of guests, book the location (if necessary), plan, purchase, and prepare food for the party, and get the invitations out. Special birthdays that may require additional time and planning include turning sweet 16, when your child reaches 18, and any surprise birthday parties.

Teen Party Ideas

If your teen wishes to have a birthday party, there are many safe activities for a group of kids that can be enjoyed. The suggestions below vary with respect to the related expenses associated with each. More expensive outings may require that the party is limited to one or two close friends, or reserved for celebrating one of the "bigger" milestones.

Though they might not admit it if asked, I believe my 14- and 12-year-old boys would enjoy any of the following:

  • Going to the movies
  • Playing video games
  • Going to a bowling alley
  • Playing games at an arcade
  • Any outdoor and/or organized activities (paintball, hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, swimming)
  • Going to the beach
  • Experience parties: art or photography, rock climbing, sports camps, etc.
  • Attending a concert
  • Going to a water park
  • Roller skating or ice skating
  • Going to a fair or amusement park

Other suggestions may include:

  • Going to a nail salon or spa
  • Visiting a museum or landmark
  • A group shopping excursion
  • Getting the teen's hair done
  • Attending a cooking demonstration or class
  • Reserving a reception room for dinner and dancing! Bonus tip: Invite attendees to dress up.
  • Hosting a costume party based on a theme

A costume party may be fun for a teenager birthday
A costume party may be fun for a teenager birthday | Source

What NOT to Do for a Teen's Birthday

  • Do not provide alcohol or other drugs to underage persons, under any circumstances.
  • Do not turn a blind eye to activities that may take place with your tacit consent, particularly in unsupervised settings (i.e. drinking, drug use, sex, and malicious mischief such as throwing eggs, toilet papering, graffiti, etc.).
  • Do not forget to go over safety rules prior to a birthday celebration, including no texting while driving, the perils of drug use, unprotected sex, etc., to minimize or prevent engaging in risky behaviors.
  • Do not fail to consider the circumstances of any unsupervised location for a birthday party celebration, the number of hours they will be alone, and whether they have access to a vehicle.

Last, but not least: Do not forget to show your teen that you love them, and hope for many additional birthdays for them in the future.

Age Appropriate Activities

As a parent of young teens, I can attest to the fact that it can be difficult to find age appropriate activities for birthday celebrations that your child will enjoy.

Often, the teen years are characterized by a pendulum widely swinging between childhood and adulthood. One minute, your child knows everything and is entirely independent. Then, the next minute, they are asking you to drive them to a friend's house.

Although your teenager may look like an adult, there are many grown-up activities that are simply not age appropriate for them. Whether you expressly allow illegal activities to take place at your home or pretend not to know what is going on at unsupervised locations, you may be legally responsible for anything that occurs at or after the party—including drinking and driving.

Be the adult. Do not allow or condone activities that put your teen and their friends, and not to mention the general public, at risk. With so many birthday party ideas to choose from, your child can still have a safe, memorable, and fun celebration.

Thinking Beyond Teen Birthday Party

There's more than one way to celebrate a birthday. It doesn't necessarily have to be with a party, either. For example, consider trips.

One of my close friends started a tradition of taking each one of her children on a special weekend trip when they turned 13. These trips were not extravagant—a couple of days at the Oregon Coast, or a weekend in Seattle, for example. What matters more than the location is the one-on-one time with your teenager, particularly if you have additional children. Even if you don't go out of town, a movie date, a dinner out, or a trip to the salon together may allow some unique bonding time.

Teen birthday parties can quickly become very expensive, particularly if you are planning a celebration that requires admission. I've witnessed a group of teenage girls in our neighborhood being picked up by a limo to go to the ice skating rink, and then out to dinner to celebrate their birthday!

My 13-year old chose pumpkin pie instead of cake for his birthday celebration
My 13-year old chose pumpkin pie instead of cake for his birthday celebration | Source

Lastly, Don't Forget: Have Your Teen Help Plan and Prepare for the Birthday Party

Why not involve your teenager in the planning of his or her birthday party? This goes beyond just choosing the location or activity. Don't forget that it also includes working to prepare a budget and shopping for items like invitations, decorations, and food.

Working together, you might find it easier to compromise on certain elements to save money, and your teen may be less likely to criticize the party if they had a large hand in its preparation. Note, however, that I said "may"... there is certainly no guarantee with this age.

Regardless of how smoothly the party planning goes, or whether the event itself is deemed to be a hit by your youngster, try to keep your sense of humor and a light attitude intact. If that doesn't help, just remember that each birthday is another step toward adulthood and (hopefully) their independence!

What Sounds like the Best Way to Celebrate a Teenager Birthday?

  • With a big party - lots of kids invited, food and dancing!
  • With a smaller group attending a fun event like a concert, the movies, or an organized game
  • No party - just family time or a one-on-one outing
  • Not sure, and I'm not sure my teen knows either!
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© 2012 Stephanie Hicks

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Comments 16 comments

poowool5 profile image

poowool5 4 years ago from here in my house

Great hub! And lots of good advice. I have two teenagers and when the time rolls around, I don't think i even use the P word (party) cos that instantly makes them think that mom's gong to trot out a big colorful cake, balloons, favors and other killer embarrassing things! My boys prefer the small gathering and as you point out, there are so many good, safe and fun ones to choose from. Getting them involved, and being flexible is key, you are so right. Thanks for the good info!

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks poowool - Sounds like your boys are very similar to mine. I'm sure my teens wold cringe like yours at the idea of cake and balloons. LOL! As they have gotten older, we've had to stop any "public displays" of birthday celebrations. Fortunately, I think we've managed to continue to make them feel special... at least so far. Good luck with your teenage birthdays too. :) Best, Steph

LauraGT profile image

LauraGT 4 years ago from MA

Thanks for the hub Stephhicks! I'm still in little kids world where I can say, "Do you want a flower party or a butterfly party?" and both are met with overwhelming enthusiasm. But I guess the teen years will be here before I know it!

jimmythejock profile image

jimmythejock 4 years ago from Scotland

Thanks Steph, you answered my question and gave me some great ideas to storm with my daughter, hopefully i will get more from her than the usual shrug of the shoulders lol.....jimmy

kelleyward 4 years ago

Such a great hub. I love how he chose pumpkin pie for his bday cake. I bet your a great mom! Thanks for sharing my oldest is 7 but I'll be there quicker than I can imagine.

The Frog Prince profile image

The Frog Prince 4 years ago from Arlington, TX

steph - I'll be 61 this coming Tuesday. Got any pointers? LMBO

The Frog

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

These are ideas that will go well with teens. As you said, they are so moody and you never know how they will react -- so, it is best to have them in on the planning process. Voted up!

poowool5 profile image

poowool5 4 years ago from here in my house

Oh I miss the "flower or butterfly" birthday party days, LauraGT (actually, with three boys, it was more, "dinosaurs or pirates") much fun...enjoy every year, take LOTS of photos, then come back and read this hub again because it's got all you need for navigating teen birthdays!

Geraldnduru profile image

Geraldnduru 4 years ago from Kenya

awesome.not yet a parent but i have now been empowered to handle the situation.

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks everyone! Jimmy, I hope this kind of helps your daughter with her upcoming birthday. My teens are the same - shrug of the shoulder and apparently not caring (though they do!)

@Poowool - I do miss the days of cute birthday party celebrations. I have a hilarious photo of my oldest two boys dressed as Power Rangers (one red, one blue). They would die a thousand deaths if I published it!

@thefrogprince - well... 61... not sure if I can help you there! LOL!

@Kelley, it does go by so fast. When we moved to our home, my oldest was 8. He's now 14, and I swear only 2-3 years have passed...!!

@Laura - definitely! Count on it! Blink and they are teenagers :)

incomeguru profile image

incomeguru 4 years ago from Lagos

Great advice, it's awesome stopping by reading this stuff. My teens do prefer celebrating their birthday with class mates. And wearing nice clothing to match.

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks incomeguru - nice that your teens enjoy dressing up for their birthdays. Best, Steph

Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 4 years ago from San Francisco

Fabulous ideas! I'm glad you mentioned experience parties- those are my favorite!

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 4 years ago from Bend, Oregon Author

Thanks Simone - me too! Especially when my teen shares the same interests as me :-)

Tammy 23 months ago

i have an idea. you could take your kids to fUN ZONE. it's a trampoline place.

toptengamer profile image

toptengamer 21 months ago from The Game

I think it really depends on the teen's interests and hobbies.

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