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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!”

Looking for information or support services on alcohol or drugs?

If you or a friend or family member needs assistance in this area, Alcohol and Drug Information Services (ADIS) are available in every state and territory. Each of these are each staffed by trained professionals who can help with your query and provide confidential advice or refer you to an appropriate service in your area.

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