Firefly-festival-doverI just returned from spending 3 days with 80,000 other people at Firefly in Dover, DE. I was initially a bit skeptical about accompanying my 15 year old daughter and her friends to this type of event.  At first, it appeared to be a massive party. I wondered, “How can this be safe? Am I being a responsible parent? I am sure there will be lots of alcohol, drugs, and other things happening that could result in a catastrophe or dangerous situation!  Over 100 bands playing on 7 different stages outside, is this insanity??”

The instant I arrived, I was pleasantly surprised! Each and every encounter I had with people from all walks of life was positive. Everyone was happy, kind, helpful and caring. The environment was not full of drunks stumbling around or people being belligerent or rude.  I never saw a fight or the police escort anyone off the premises. Despite the heavy fumes from those funny smoking things, we all survived and the group of teenagers my friends and I were responsible for were able to have good clean fun~ free of problems.

firefly-crowdsExperiences like this help create long lasting memories and bonds between parents and children which will be remembered forever. The opportunity for a 15 year old to experience a bit of freedom, earn and keep trust, all while resisting peer pressure, makes my parental job of letting go a bit easier.  A child’s ability to responsibly encounter things you have taught them to say “no” to for years are best tested in environments where some freedom is given. If we limit our child’s exposure in the world and fail to allow them safe opportunities to show us they can make good decisions, we set them up for future failures.

Research suggests that most youth (85%) will have experimented with alcohol or another addictive substance prior to the age of 17. While this statistic may be alarming, it is the reality of the world we live in today. Drugs, alcohol and marijuana are readily available and easy to access for all who are looking. Despite numerous prevention programs and education provided to our youth, the odds are they will test the waters and not always make the best choices. When this occurs, a supportive, nurturing and reality based discussion revealing the consequences of underage substance abuse can be best conveyed by personal conviction and legal ramifications.  If you believe your child has a substance abuse problem please seek help at:

Based on my positive experience at Firefly, I will look forward to next year.


Total-Family-SolutionsDebbie Riddle is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Delaware and New Jersey and CEO of Total Family Solutions.