When your child morphs into a teen there are so very many changes happening: biological, emotional and behavioural. It’s an absolute rollercoaster, these adolescent years.
And, as I’m soon to discover, the definition of the word ‘party’ changes too…
My Mr-so-close-to-17 has asked to host a birthday party here in a few short weeks. And I know it’s not going to be a night of pass-the-parcel or musical chairs. If only teens were as easily amused and occupied.
The phrase ‘teen party’ can scream panic into the minds of parents, neighbours and police. With fairly good reason. Mainstream media rarely shies from broadcasting teen gatherings gone wrong and six o’clock news bulletins frequently feature stories accompanied by images of drunken youths harming themselves, others and property. ‘Out of control’ would be a reasonable description and we are yet again reminded why young people and excessive alcohol consumption are a bad mix.
So what’s a parent to do?
Well, honestly, there’s absolutely no right or wrong answer to this question. If I can be of any help at all, here are the novice steps we’re taking, as we prepare for this place’s first teen shindig.
Having an awareness of the teen-party culture
“My lad is in Grade 12, his final year of high school.”
Whether I like it or not, I understand the majority of final year students expect to consume alcohol at parties they attend. And yes, that includes him.
Does he have my approval to drink? Not at all. And he’s very aware of my beliefs around underage drinking and hence my disapproval. I just don’t pretend it’s not happening, although that would be easier.
Does he have my permission to drink? Well, yes… under some very specific circumstances and thus far he’s been responsible enough to adhere to these. I’m lucky he’s quite sensible and not a risk taker by nature.
Parents should be mindful of whether or not they approve of, allow or encourage teen drinking it’s highly probable alcohol will be consumed at teen parties. Key strategies then become awareness, ground rules, supervision and the implementation of consequences if needed.
The initial discussion and consideration… aka deciding the ground rules
We’ve talked…. talked some more and the conversations have honestly been frank. Blunt even. In my book if a teen’s old enough to host a party, they’re old enough to have a straightforward and direct conversation about the expectations and ground rules.
In order to throw this upcoming do, Mr almost-17 needed to consider and agree to the substantial list of ground rules we’ve set…
- No one under Grade 12 age to consume any alcohol. No exception.
- Anyone in Grade 12 wishing to consume alcohol, yet under 18 must provide proof their parents are aware of this
- Names and home contact numbers of all who are invited must be provided. The number will be capped to what we’ve agreed on.
- It’s strictly invitation only with NO FACEBOOK mention of the event
- Gratecrashers will be met at the gate and asked to leave. No invitation = no entry. If enforcing this requires a call to the local station, then so be it.
- Anyone who drives and arrives with alcohol will have their car keys kept inside with us all night
- The amount of alcohol brought will be examined and any person consuming an excessive amount will have their parents called to collect them. No ifs, buts or matter what the time of night.
- He must door knock all the direct neighbours and inform them of the party date and times
- The party will be listed with the QPS Party Register service
Harsh? Possibly. Maybe it’s not strict enough, but it’s our first.
Regardless these are the rules we’ve set and he’s agreed they’re fair. All good… so far.
Teen parties are not set and go. Supervision is key.
My son needn’t worry… I shan’t be hanging out at his party showing off my dance moves to the young set. However I will be keenly observing the goings-on. Safety and security are fundamental to the success of any teen party.
Although we’re a couple of weeks out from P-Day, I’m already accumulating sleep where I can, knowing there won’t be much shut eye for me on the night. I believe I owe it to the parents of his friends to be awake, aware and on hand to deal with any issues… which hopefully won’t arise!
When not watching from a ‘safe’ distance, I plan to be listening. If it’s at my house, it’s on my watch and I’m conscious of that accountability.
For every action there is a reaction. Consequences.
Over the years I’ve spoken to many parents who’ve admitted a fear of setting firm and clear boundaries with their teens.
My advice is don’t be; as the parent, you hold the upper hand. Be resolute about what you find reasonable and very clear on exactly what consequences will (not might) follow should there be a problem.
I’ve made it explicitly clear with my youngster that should it be required, consequences will be enforced. And he knows I mean business.
All that remains now, is for me to hold my breath and cross my fingers until it’s all over. I shall let you know how it goes!