I love throwing parties, but my bonus daughters will tell you that I'm far more enthusiastic about hosting over 20's than teens, purely because the responsibilities for me are far less extreme.
When it comes to teen parties I've made some really stupid mistakes, like offering to serve low grade alcohol because one parent suggested it then having to back-pedal when other parents objected. I've allowed teens to stay the night without fully considering the issues around those who might want to be sexually active. The result was that I ended up being the bad guy because I had to police them on behalf of the parents. I should have simply had a cut off time when the party ended and sent them home.
In truth, I find it really hard to walk the line between being the grown up who makes sure they are safe and letting them have maximum fun. I still remember the family party years ago when someone dragged me out to 'fix' my 6 year old's naughtiness and I found them jumping naked on a trampoline covered with all the daffodils they'd picked from my garden. I wanted to laugh and join in, but I felt the need to explain that it wasn't acceptable. To this day I'm still not sure why and if I had my time again I'd have joined them.
I've since learned that the only really important thing to focus on is safety, which is why I would always want at least one sober adult available at any teen party. I've had a boy split his head open and need a trip to A&E, I've dealt with a muscular boy who was having a mental health crisis and threatening bodily harm to others, I've counselled teen girls in tears. Thankfully none of my real fears have ever come to pass, such as an uncontrollable mob turning up, pregnancy, death... that sort of thing.
The key lesson I've learnt is that when we build a strong relationship with our teens - and their friends - their desires will line up with ours. They are far less likely to trash your house, steal your things, break your rules, let in gatecrashers, or allow friends to dive into a pool drunk. They still need you on standby, but when we treat them with respect they're more likely to self-regulate and everyone will be happier.
Below is a list of the key things to consider when it comes to parties. We can't tell you what lines to draw, we can only tell you what they are so that you can discus them with your own teenager. It's all so dependent on age, maturity, and your own relationship.
The tips on resolving disagreements can help at other times, not just with issues surrounding parties. Do let us know if you have anything else you think should be added to the list.
PARTIES – THE TEENAGERS UNTANGLED TOP TIPS
Planning. Key issues to discuss with your teenager:
- Number of guests.
- Dealing with the uninvited and/or gate-crashers.
- Alcohol - Episode 2.
- Smoking/vaping - Episode 8.
- Drugs - Episode 20.
- Sex - Episode 3.
- Areas of the house they can use.
- The number of adults to be ‘present’.
- Party invitations, include your own contact details, and the risks of Snapchat.
- Start and finish times.
- Quantity of food and other soft drinks.
- Policy on finding kids drunk/drugged/injured.
- Names and contact details of a parent in case something happens.
Going to parties. Things to consider that aren’t on the list above:
- The time by which they have to leave the party/time they must arrive home.
- Safety. Let your teen know that they can call you at any time, in any condition, if they or their friends need your help – no questions asked.
- Make sure your teen’s phone has your landline, mobile number, partner’s mobile number and other emergency contacts.
- Give your contact details to one of your teen’s friends.
- Make sure your teen has enough money for an emergency taxi ride home.
- Have a coded message that your teen can use if they’re embarrassed about calling.
- Give your teen a personal alarm to carry if you’re concerned about their physical safety, or set up an emergency safety app on their phone.
- Identify exactly what it is that you disagree over.
- Think about why it’s a issue for either of you.
- Brainstorm possible solutions.
- Evaluate the solutions.
- Agree on your course of action and write it down.
- Agree on consequences.