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Parties should be a great time! You really miss the time when lollies, funny hats and party games were what kids wanted. Adolescence sees a quantum shift in what young people expect.

What do kids look for at a party?

  • Same age friends
  • Low profile or no-profile adult presence
  • Music – loud!
  • Dancing
  • Alcohol
  • Rowdy fun

What do parents look for?

  • An adult perspective
  • Safety
  • No drunkenness
  • Not too late
  • Not too much noise
  • No damage etc.

Negotiation is going to be difficult

You and your teen have a different set of priorities and fears, but you can start from this point – you both want safe boundaries that won’t clip their fun. For a few more years, kids will have to accept their parent’s authority on some things.

Alcohol and teens – the trickiest combo

The law hasn’t helped – lowering the age to 18 means that school-age children can legally drink, and that means many teens younger than that see it as being perfectly acceptable as well. Alcohol may be the biggest social challenge your teen will encounter – there are lots of dangers and pitfalls.

Different approaches to alcohol

As parents, there are several ways through this minefield and none of them are guaranteed!

  • Total prohibition – no alcohol at all
  • Introduce it in adult company – you can only drink with us
  • Set specific limits – you can only drink within these limits
  • Close eyes, cross fingers and hope!

A suggested time line

  • 15 and under – “You’re not allowed”
  • 16 and 17 – “Only with me or with adults I trust”
  • 18 – “The law says yes, but it will still be within our limits and values”

Some non-negotiable rules

  • Never drink and drive, or ride with a driver who has been drinking
  • Never drink and swim
  • Stick with your mates
  • When in doubt, phone home!

Clear limits

  • You may only have _____ drinks
  • No drugs at all
  • You must be home by _____
  • You may not go on to another party
  • You must call if there is any change of plan

Teens sometimes discover that a party is getting too scary or rough, or the person they were trusting for a ride home has been drinking. Let your teen know – you will always come and get them, with no questions asked (well, not at the time, anyway!). Keep your phone handy to receive texts.

Make the call

With younger teens especially, call the home where they are going and speak with the adults there. If you are shy you will find this very scary, but it is very rare that you will get anything except reassurance. A good starting line is to offer to help – who could resent that? Find out –

  • How many people will be attending the party?
  • Who and how many will be supervising the party?
  • Will alcohol be available?
  • What time the party is expected to finish?

If you ever did get a bad response, then I think you will know that that won’t be a safe home for your kids.

Know your limit

Experience is a slow, cruel and unreliable teacher when it comes to alcohol. It is wise that your kids know these things –

  • The first drink is okay, the second is a risk, but after that you don’t count so well!
  • Male or female, big or small – it makes a difference. Drinks hit smaller people and girls harder and faster.
  • Drink in sips not gulps, and have a non-alcoholic drink between every alcoholic one. Food slows down the effect of alcohol but coffee and energy drunks do not sober you, they just make you a more lively drunk.
  • Don’t let others top-up your drinks and, because drinks can be ‘spiked’, watch your glass.
  • Take your mobile phone and make sure someone else knows where you are going.
  • Arrange a non-drinking driver, but keep aside money for a taxi just in case. (Parents, you might like to let them know that you will stump up for a taxi if they arrive home in one, but they must pay you back!)

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