When most people think about New Year’s Eve, they think of late nights, loud parties and booze. Lots of booze. The holiday is basically synonymous with champagne, right? And if you’re the parent of a young child, honestly, there’s no reason to skip the bubbly. But what about if you’re parenting a young adult who’s not yet of drinking age? How can you have a fun and safe (and legal) New Year’s with your teen that doesn’t feel lame?
From daytime ball drops to fireworks displays, there are actually a lot of options that aren’t lame at all. Here are six activities that let them celebrate, have fun, go just a little wild and, most important, stay safe.
Host a gaming party
Whether or not they’re still into family game nights, we’re willing to bet your teen enjoys some form of gaming. Teens are competitive by nature. (We’re not sure why. It’s just instinctual. It’s in their blood.) And by hosting a game night with friends, you can harness their competitive energy in a fun and positive way. Plus, this type of party can be tailored to your teen, i.e., they can play sports, card games, board and/or video games all night long.
Attend a daytime ball drop
Start the new year off with a bang and take your teen to a professional fireworks show. Some ballparks and amusement parks put on an amazing fireworks display that can be viewed from both inside and outside the park, so pack a blanket and enjoy the show.
Find an organized event
Indoor activities such as roller-skating, ice-skating, bowling and commercial arcades are great New Year’s Eve activities for teens. Check for special deals and events that may ensure kids — including teens — remain on-site until they’re picked up by a parent. Have your teen plan to attend with a group of friends, and coordinate among the adults about who will be in charge of picking them up. The easiest way to find events in your area is literally to Google “family New Year’s Eve events near me” — you’ll be rewarded with a whole host of options!
Host a slumber party
Hosting a safe New Year’s Eve party for teens is the easiest way to ensure your child is playing by the rules. Music, movies, and munchies know no age limit, and you can let your kid help plan everything from the decor to the food. Plus, every teen enjoys a late-night party with their best friends.
Go to an amusement park
Theme parks often offer special events and hours during the holidays (Disney World in Orlando, for example, is open until 1 a.m. on New Year’s Eve). Security patrol, monitored activities, and an enclosed environment ensure parents can rest easy, while the amusement park ensures teens will have fun.
Have a fancy(ish) dinner
Older kids aren’t usually as picky as the littles, and can definitely appreciate a fancy spread more. Whether you make them from scratch or buy them from the store, an array of appetizers make the occasion feel a little more grown-up and festive. Pair it with some champagne flutes of sparkling grape juice for added flair.
Don’t forget safe driving rules
There are many options for safe New Year’s Eve celebrations for teens, but that all goes out the window if your teen gets into a car with someone who’s been drinking or doesn’t practice safe driving themselves. If your teenager will be on the road this New Year’s Eve, review safe road rules — including no texting while driving.
“End the night right: If you fear that your driver for the evening may have become under the influence during the course of the night, do not — under any circumstances — get in their vehicle,” Kevin Markham of Ford Global Driver Safety urges teens. And what can parents do? Make sure your teen knows they can always get a ride. “Your parents or sibling won’t be mad if you call late for a ride,” Markham tells teens. “In fact, they should be happy you made the responsible and safe decision.”
With the right choices and ground rules, you can help make this a safe New Year’s your teen won’t soon forget.
A version of this article was originally published in December 2012.
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