How to Celebrate a Teenager's Birthday
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!
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
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!
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!
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© 2012 Stephanie Hicks
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