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Q. My 17-year-old daughter was invited to a coed sleepover for New Year's Eve. I know the host family and trust the parents will be at home, but I still think this is asking for trouble.
A. You say you trust the parents, but you don't say if you know what they'll be doing during the sleepover. Because hanging out in their bedroom while the party rages downstairs doesn't cut it. Call them to confirm that they'll be checking on the kids every 45 minutes. Then ask your daughter how she feels about the event. It's common for teens to be anxious about a party like this precisely for the same reasons you are. If she doesn't want to go but is too embarrassed to tell her friends why, suggest that she blame you.
But if she does want to go, let her—with certain conditions. Discuss the possible problems that could occur (i.e., drinking, fighting, using drugs, inappropriate sexual behavior, etc.) and how she will respond. Give ground rules and expectations for her conduct that are based on treating herself and others with dignity.
Also tell her that under no circumstances (especially if it's 3 a.m. and someone has to go home because her boyfriend has hooked up with someone else) can she get into a car as a passenger or driver. Certainly she can call you anytime to pick her up if she is uncomfortable. No questions asked—until the next morning over a nice cup of tea. Finally, before she leaves for the party, say to her, "Just to be sure we're on the same page, tell me in your own words what my rules and expectations are for you at this party and the possible consequences if these rules are broken."
Originally published in the January 2007 issue of Family Circle magazine.