Monday, 23 September 2013

What do you say when you call a parent hosting a party?

Teenage parties (or 'gatherings' as they're now called) are by their very nature events where adolescents are going to let their hair down and as a result, things can go wrong, particularly when alcohol is added to the mix. The decision to allow your child to attend a party or not is one that all parents will face eventually. Parents need to make their decision based on a range of information that unfortunately can be extremely difficult to collect.

As I've written in a previous blog entry, one thing for sure is that your child will not want you to contact the parents holding the party. As far as a teenager is concerned that is the ultimate embarrassment, however, if you want to make an informed decision when it comes to your child attending a party or not, you are going to have to bite the bullet and take the risk. 

If your child was going on a school excursion and there were any potential risks involved in the trip you would want to know as much as possible about the activity they were taking part in. The school would hopefully provide a whole pile of information on where the students were going and let you know what precautions they were taking to make the trip as safe as possible. If you felt that they trip was too risky, you would refuse permission for your child to take part. That is your right as a parent. It should be exactly the same for a teenage gathering. 

It never ceases to amaze me how many parents do not find out more about where there teenager is going on a Saturday night. Of course, contacting a parent you don’t know and asking them questions about a party they are holding is not necessarily going to be an easy task, but that’s what parenting is all about – a whole pile of not very easy tasks!

When you contact a parent to ask them about their party make sure you plan what you are going to say beforehand. Write down the questions you are going to ask and make sure they are asked in a way that is not confrontational and accusatory. Some of the ways you could approach the subject when you make the call could include the following:
  • My son has just started going to parties and I’m still trying to negotiate my way through setting some ground rules. I’m just calling to find out how you’re dealing with the alcohol issue.
  • Thank you so much for inviting my daughter to the party. We have some basic rules around parties and alcohol that we have developed and we just want to find out some information about what will be happening on the night.
  • I know it can be very difficult to host a party and I really do appreciate that you are offering your home to the young people. We’re considering holding an event in the future, can you let me know what you’re doing about adult supervision and alcohol use?

Some of the questions that you will most probably want answered will include the following:
  • Will there be adult supervision? Does this mean actual supervision or will there just be adults in the house?
  • Who are the adults?
  • Will you be providing alcohol?
  • What will you be doing about underage drinking?

There are a whole range of other questions that you could ask and if you have an existing relationship with the hosts I would strongly advise that you ask them, if only to ensure that they have thought all possible scenarios through. However, if you do not know the parents they could take offence that a complete stranger has even considered asking them such questions. These include things such as:
  • What have you got planned to deal with uninvited guests?
  • Have you registered your party with the local police?
  • What will you do if you discover underage drinking?
  • Have you got plans in case things get out of control?

It is important to remember that every family is different and that not every parent is going to have the same views as you on the issue of teenagers and alcohol. If they do have a different viewpoint, this phone call is definitely not the time for you to give them a lecture on what you believe is the right way to bring up a child. Thank them for their time, wish them luck for the evening and get off the phone. Getting into a dispute about the right way to hold a teenage party is not necessary. You are highly unlikely to change their opinion on the subject and the whole experience will only leave you angry and frustrated. Putting the phone down and walking away is the best thing to do. Then thank your lucky stars that you did the right thing and have now prevented your child from getting into what you perceive as a high risk situation.

As a parent you can only do what you think is right for your child. How other parents raise their children is their business and it really is not your place to become involved in their parenting decisions. This will only change if during the course of your discussion you discover that there are young people at risk of experiencing harm, e.g. physical violence.

Be a parent when it comes to parties, particularly for the first couple of years. Take an interest in where they are going and who they will be with and do a little bit of parenting when it comes to finding out what type of party it will be and whether there will be alcohol present. Make your decision on whether they should attend or not based on good information and involve your child in that decision. Let them know why you made the decision that you did.

Most importantly, when they go to the party continue to be a parent. Make sure you are available to them should they need you. Your child should feel comfortable calling you in any situation, at any time. As a woman I know says to her children at every opportunity – “You can call me anytime, anywhere and I will be there to pick you up, no questions asked ……. then!”

3 comments:

  1. Thank you Paul. Your work is always so practical for parents.

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  2. I'm astounded by this article. There are laws on the books in every state regarding teens and alcohol, but apparently, parents believe they are above law when it comes to raising their children.

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  3. Get a closer look at this page where collected top tips for parents to monitor their kids.

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