Your Teenager’s first festival?

glastonbury 95 with Alison
Glastonbury ’95

A parent wrote to us asking about teenager festivals:

Our 16 year old is off to their first festival this year with some friends. They are all pretty sensible but I can’t help worrying.

Any advice?

Letting our kids spread their wings and explore the world is something all parents will wrestle with at some stage.

Teenage years are tricky – everyone tells you so. We want to give them space to grow and freedom to develop, but most importantly we want to keep them safe.

For parents who have never been to festivals before, the whole idea can be daunting. Without first-hand experience, the idea of 100,000 people partying in a field somewhere can be very scary. Hygiene, safety, losing their belongings and even worrying if they will remember to feed themselves could all be on your mind.

For regular festival goers or parents who have grown up in the ‘rave’ generation, the idea of allowing their little babies loose in this crazy world can be even more worrying.

The fact is, your teenager is probably safer at most festivals than on an average high street on a Saturday night. Festivals generally have a high level of security staff, onsite emergency aid and thousands of other like-minded people looking out for each other.

Glastonbury aged 17
Glastonbury ’93 – My first festival, aged 17

A few tips

  1. Pick the festival wisely. There are so many to choose from. Our festival guide includes info and reviews on many of them and if we haven’t listed or reviewed one you are considering then get in touch. Chances are, one of our readers has been and can give an honest opinion of their experiences.
  2. If you or your teenager has never been to a festival before then perhaps suggest you choose one together and go as a family. Let them take a friend who they can hang out with then meet up from time to time. Who knows – you may even love it!
  3. If they are going without adults our advice is to go for a smaller event first. The experience of being away and camping with friends is really exciting on its own. Big festivals can be overwhelming for anyone and some festivals now offer day tickets – a good idea if they have never camped alone before.
  4. Sticking with one other person is really important. Even as an adult, I always go to festivals with someone else. Make sure you have contact numbers for the friends your teenagers are travelling with and ask for their parents’ phone number too. Tell them to stick with their buddy at all times.
  5. We are very lucky now that we can keep in touch so easily. Asking your kids to check in with you at a couple of set times a day by text can be reassuring. Most festivals have charging points for phones although be aware that some festivals have little or no mobile phone coverage.
  6. Work out with your kids what equipment and money they think they will need. Some festivals are huge so make sure they can carry their stuff. Help them set a budget for each day and encourage them to leave their valuables at home taking just what they need. An old phone is a good idea.
  7. Talk to your kids about alcohol and ask them if they intend to drink. Even if they don’t feel they can be honest with you at least you can explain how they can stay safe, what you consider is a safe amount to drink and what to do if they come across ‘a friend’ who has had too much to drink.

Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll

Yes, alcohol, drugs and other dangers at festivals can be a worry but this is true of everyday life. Festivals are also an educational, cultural and enlightening experience.

Our kids will face dangers and challenges every day for the rest of their lives. What we can do is equip them with knowledge and advice. Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll have been part of modern culture for many years.

Being open with your kids on all these subjects will allow them to understand the dangers they may face*. But ultimately, just like Rock & Roll, kids will make their own choices and mistakes in life. We can just do our best to guide them. If you do not feel able to talk to your kids about Sex and Drugs then there are some great websites aimed at teenagers. Try Talk to Frank and speak to their school if you need further advice.

We’d love to hear your advice to parents with teenagers and also what festivals you would recommend as a ‘first time’ experience.


5 thoughts on “Your Teenager’s first festival?

  1. My 16 year old is going to YNOT festival in July with her friends that she has grown up with since the age of 4 who are the same age I am worried sick but at the same time I know it’s all part of growing up, I know I will have a couple of sleepless nights has any other parent experiencing the same situation

    1. I think it’s worse if you are a parent who goes to festivals as all you see are potential danger. My parents had no idea so were totally in the dark about festivals when I was a teen. The best we can do is teach them well and remind them how much there is to enjoy so to be careful. Stick together is always my biggest bit of advice. Sarah

  2. I took my Son to his first festival last year, a small grassroots one and taught him the do’s and dont’s. I also took the time to point out potential dangers with the certain humans that only go to festivals to rob people and be proper idiots. We didn’t meet anyone like that at the festival but i now feel confident that he will maintain his safety and have a good awareness when he embarks on his festival journeys. This also helps his Mum from becoming a nervous wreck, bless her!!

  3. Some sensible advise here. I went to my first festival with friends at about the same age and had a great time. I would also be worried but would encourage them to go, it is all part of growing up and experiencing different things and a bit of independance. My bigger worry is my kids have so much fun from home with each other I struggle to get them to look further afield. I hope yours have a wonderful time.

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