Attending parties plays a large part in the social development of many teenagers. From birthdays to graduations, whatever the celebration, parties are an important right of passage that bring teens closer. It can, however, be a time of concern for parents who fear for their teens’ safety. Adolescence is a period full of new pressures, experiences and lessons in life.
Teenagers are growing into adults, deciding what type of person they will become, who their friends are, what they want to do with their lives and are also testing boundaries and exerting increasing levels of independence. Not to mention the physiological changes they are experiencing.
It is no surprise that your teenage son’s decisions can become compromised by the additional pressures, emotions and insecurities that come with their age. Unfortunately, parties are often the perfect setting for these pressures, emotions and insecurities to come to the surface. It can also be difficult to convince your teenager that you have their best interest at heart.
That being said, there are ways to minimise risk and keep teenagers at parties safe. Here are six practical tips:
1. Don’t supply teens with alcohol or drugs
Alcohol and drugs can influence a teenagers’ decision-making process, putting them in risky situations. Apart from the fact that drug-use and under-aged drinking is illegal, there are a myriad of different short and long term reasons why under-aged drinking can have a negative effect on the physical and mental health of your son. Research by the Mental Health Commission in 2016 shows that of the teenagers who had consumed alcohol in the past week, almost a third was supplied by parents. Teenage boys’ brains are still developing and therefore alcohol consumption should be discouraged.
2. Ensure there will be adults present at the party
It is a good idea to find out whether adults will be present at the party and who they are. Carefully consider whether you should allow your son to attend a party with no adult supervision. Teenage boys in particular will often try things they normally wouldn’t at home, and their excess energy and excitement could lead to some dangerous risk taking. An adult presence can curb the behaviour.
3. Ensure your teen has a plan for getting home
Making sure your teenager has a plan for getting home safely and setting clear expectations about curfews are important steps in ensuring your child’s safety. Getting into a car with an inexperienced P-plate driver or someone under the influence is clearly not as safe as calling home for assistance. Assure your child that if they are truly stuck and need a lift home, you are willing to collect them or pay for an Uber. This minimal inconvenience is a small price to pay for keeping them safe.
4. Trust in your teen’s ability to be responsible
Teenagers crave independence. It is important for their development that they be allowed to experience the highs and lows of making their own choices independently. Even if this means making a few mistakes along the way. This does not mean that you can’t agree on a set of rules for the evening. Discuss how your son will get to and from the party, what time he is expected home, and if anything goes wrong, who he should contact.
Discuss strategies for coping with peer pressure to drink or take drugs. Your son could say that he has work, or a major assignment to work on in the morning which requires a clear head. Or he could say that he is unable to drink because he is on medication.
5. Avoid open house parties
Open house parties are never a good idea. There is no way of knowing who is going to be there or what alcohol or drugs could be present. It is a little bit like going to a club where there aren’t any bouncers. If the party is organised on Facebook, ensure the invite is by “Invite Only.”
6. Have a back-up plan
In the case of emergencies, there is no harm in giving one or more of your teenager’s friends your phone number. It is also worth getting the phone number of the host’s parents or that of a responsible adult supervisor. Ensure your son knows who to contact if there’s an emergency. You might also consider having a coded message if your son finds he wants to leave the party but doesn’t want to be embarrassed by calling you. For example, you might decide that sending a text that says, “what time is lunch tomorrow” might be a cue for you to go and collect your son (discreetly).
7. Encourage your son to stay in groups
There is power in numbers, especially when travelling to or from a party. When your teenager is in a group he can look after others, and be looked after. There will also be more people to assist in the case of an emergency.
If you’re hosting a teenage party, the NSW Government provides some guidelines for surviving teenage parties.
Your relationship with your son will make all the difference in him deciding whether he feels comfortable discussing difficult topics with you, sharing information or heeding your advice. So, listen when he talks, give him freedom and responsibilities, show that you trust his judgement and give him the chance to prove his maturity (all within reason). As a result, he is likely to respect you and your advice, be more open with you, and give greater consideration to his own safety.
At Trinity Grammar School our mission is to provide a thoroughly Christian education for boys, imparting knowledge and understanding of the world we live in, recognising the importance of spiritual qualities in every sphere of learning. We actively encourage our students to grow in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man, so that they may become responsible, contributing members of society. We strive to promote the spiritual, academic, social, physical and cultural development of our boys, based on a biblical understanding of the Christian faith.
Trinity’s Pastoral Care guidelines focus on the fundamentals of good parenting — providing both care and discipline — enabling boys to grow into self-confident, trustworthy and resilient young men. Combined with an ongoing partnership between the School and home, your son will thrive in a consistent, caring and nurturing environment.
Our Life Skills Programme is part of a whole of School approach to health and wellbeing that enhances our boys’ capacity to be emotionally resilient and socially competent.