Should you let your teen go to a festival with their friends?

Planning will help your teen feel more confident – and hopefully help parents feel more secure too.

Don’t overreact, help them prepare, and remember that trust is important!

Going to your first festival with friends should be exciting, rewarding and fun, making it one of the highlights of the summer holiday.

But if your teen hasn’t spent much time away from home, or travelled long distances without any adult supervision before, it’s understandable some parents could be in two minds about letting them go.

So, should parents let their teens go to a festival with friends – and what do you need to be asking if they do go?

Start small and set expectations

If it’s your teen’s first ever festival, counsellor Georgina Sturmer acknowledges the idea of a big full-on weekender might feel a bit overwhelming for both of you.

“And they might not meet the minimum age requirement,” she says – making this a first thing to check. “If that’s the case, consider how you can introduce them to the idea. Maybe there’s the option of a ‘day ticket’, or a small, local festival instead, or a family camping trip to test out their outdoors skills.”

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This could be a chance to get prepared for bigger more independent trips in the future, and ask some key questions: “What kind of kit does your teen need? And do they know how to use it? Festivals are a great way to encourage our teens to get outdoors, to learn new skills. But they may well need some support and practice to get them there.”

Matt Buttery, chief executive of ‘positive parenting program’ Triple P UK and Ireland, agrees. This may be one of the first times your teen is without adult supervision, so decide on your family’s expectations and discuss these with your child.

“Be sure to praise their good behaviour generally as a basis for setting out what you expect from them,” he says. “But beyond behaviour, it is also important to establish any ground rules, such as communication while they are away, and setting out the importance of this in maintaining trust and ensuring their safety.”

Explore your own fears and worries

Sturmer acknowledges it’s natural to feel a bit worried or anxious when our children take new steps towards independence and adventures.

“But if you find yourself overwhelmed with fear or worry, it’s important to explore these for yourself,” she says. “Are your fears rational, and if so, can you take steps to mitigate them? Or are you becoming overwhelmed with irrational worry? If so, how can you help yourself to ‘catch the catastrophe’ and soothe yourself? Above all else, remember that you are in charge.”

Have a plan for peer pressure

(Alamy Stock Photo)

Peer pressure can sometimes lead to young people engaging in risky behaviour. Help them prepare for this too, letting them know it’s ok to say no and talk about any worries they may have.

“If they see their friends doing something such as drinking, smoking or vaping, they might feel like they too need to do this to stay in the friendship group, or to make friends in new situations,” says Buttery.

“This may be more of a concern for parents who would not necessarily be accompanying their teen to the festival. To help manage this, come up with a plan – with your child – to help them tackle peer pressure, so they are prepared should a situation arise. For example, help them think up a line they can use to turn down these things. This will help them gain the confidence to say no outright.

“Whilst peer pressure is influential, so is family. By talking together, you can make your values and opinions clear and helping them to build confidence to say no will teach a valuable life skill of setting boundaries, which will set them up well for the future.”

Come up with logistics and contingencies

Planning will help both parents and their teen feel more confident and secure about things.

“Encourage your teen to map out what they need, how they will get there, and how they will keep themselves – and their belongings – safe and secure,” says Sturmer.

(Alamy Stock Photo)

“Also consider contingency planning, what happens if someone becomes unwell, or if they got lost? And most importantly, are they able to rely on their own skills to figure things out if their devices are broken or lost or stolen?”

Foster open communication

As Buttery points out, fostering open communication with your child from an early age will help parents maintain positive communications channels during the teen years.

“Be curious, not furious. If your teen wants to go to a festival with their friends, it’s important not to overreact and instead talk to your teen to understand their motivation, while also discussing the risks,” he says.

“Having open dialogue generally will allow your teen to talk with you about a wide array of issues, such as their mental health, concerns at school or with friends, and as they get older, about alcohol, partners and drugs, and will make them feel comfortable when approaching you with this request.”

Drugs and alcohol

There’s no denying that your teen might be exposed to, or offered, drugs or alcohol if they are attending a festival.

“It might be helpful to have an open and honest conversation about this topic before they go,” says Sturmer, “to help them to explore any fears or misconceptions, and to set some ground rules and boundaries about what you expect.”