Parties, Young People and Alcohol: Guidelines for Parents

We believe a sound social education includes opportunities for boys and girls to learn to interact confidently with a wide spectrum of their peers. Social gatherings are just one way for young people to develop sound social skills and relationships. The organisation of parties for young people should, however, always be based on shared understandings about respectful, safe and appropriate behaviour. Young people trust adults to guide their learning in this area while we acknowledge the need to grow our trust in their ability to finally make their own wise choices.

Please find below, a set of guidelines to assist parents with decision making about either hosting a party for your child or whether your child should accept an invitation to a party. Parents should take the time to talk to one another, in order to come to some shared understandings that will form the foundation for a mutually supportive approach to complex issues such as finishing times, alcohol and partners.

As you negotiate this with your child, remain true to your family's values. Be clear about your expectations for his/her behaviour despite any pressures your child may bring to bear with arguments about 'what everyone else is allowed to do'! While many parents and their children will share your values, be aware that there is a range of views in the community, especially in relation to the appropriate age for the consumption of alcohol. Talk to other parents to understand their views and to make your expectations understood. And remember, your wisdom and experience equip you to make better judgments about this than most 12-17 years olds can make!

So your child is asking to go to a party?

  • Do you have the essential information about the event your child is requesting to attend?
    • Starting and finishing times?
    • Number of people attending and the age range?
    • How invitations have been distributed?
    • The venue
    • Will there be supervision by adults?
    • How many adults will be supervising?
    • Are there clear arrangements for picking up your child when the event finishes?
    • If another parent is picking up your child, confirm the arrangements directly with them.
  • Avoid 'sleepovers' incorporated into events like parties and resist late night phone calls attempting to change plans.
  • Beware of the 'gathering'. This can simply be a party by stealth which catches you unaware and precludes you from taking the necessary steps to ensure your child's safety
  • Have you spoken to the parents of the person arranging the event, to RSVP to the invitation and to confirm the arrangements listed in 1 above?
  • Are you satisfied that the event will be managed in ways that minimise risks to our child?
  • Have you asked the adults organising the event whether alcohol consumption will be permitted for the young people attending?
  • Have you clearly outlined to your child your expectations for all aspects of his/her behaviour, including alcohol consumption, smoking, other drug use and courtesies owed to the hosts?
  • Are you comfortable with the values you are modelling for your child in negotiating to ensure his/her safety at this event?
  • Have you equipped your child with some strategies to use if things develop in ways that he/she is not comfortable with eg: mobile phone and number to contact you to collect him/her early if it becomes necessary?
  • Decide on a code word that your teenager can use if things are getting out of hand

So your child is asking to host a party?

  • Have you:
    • taken time to plan the details well ahead of invitations being issued?
    • established agreement on starting and finishing times, food and drinks?
    • explained why anyone who leaves the event will not be permitted to return?
    • accurately assessed the amount and type of adult supervision that will be required? (In some instances security guards could be hired to assist you.)
    • managed the number and distribution of invitations and requested RSVP to you?
    • included strategies for preventing uninvited guests from attending?
  • Have you explained to your child why it is safer, and likely to be far better managed, if you host this event in your own home?
  • Have you explained your expectations with respect to alcohol availability and its consumption by the young people attending?
  • Welcome calls from the parents of invited guests. Discuss openly with them your plans for managing the event and be explicit about your expectations for the behaviour of guests, including alcohol, smoking and other drugs.
  • Accept that some parents might not be able to see their child behaving within the guidelines you have set and respect their choice not to allow their child to attend.
  • Are you comfortable with the values you are modelling for your child as you plan to ensure the safety of the young people who will be your responsibility at this event?