We recently had the pleasure of hosting Sonia Karras for our first parent education seminar for 2017. Sonia presented an entertaining and informative talk to parents from Years 7-12 on alcohol, drugs and the law, social media safety, hosting parties at home, drink spiking and drugs.
We thought it might be a good opportunity to put together some tips on managing safe partying.
There are a number of things to consider, including whether you will provide alcohol or allow smoking at the party.
It’s important to have a discussion beforehand to make sure you and your teenager are on the same page and have the same expectations.
- Budget ~ setting a budget will help decide the number of guests that can be invited, location, and type of entertainment and catering.
- Location ~ consider things like how will gatecrashers be prevented? Will some locations be off limits and pets be safe if having the party at home? Will neighbours need to be notified? Are there so many people that a separate venue needs to be hired? Who will clean up after the party?
- Guest list ~ set numbers and stick to the guest list. Discuss the ages of the guests and whether some guests might cause concerns?
- Start and finish time ~agree on the start and finish time including when music will be turned off and drinks stopped.
Written invitations have many advantages as they provide the first point of contact with other parents. You could even request that the invite is shown at the door, helping to reduce the likelihood of gate-crashers.
It’s not advised to invite guests by SMS, email or through Facebook (or other social media sites). If you do use Facebook, ensure that the event is private and for invited guests only.
Party registration with police
It’s a good idea to contact the police to register your party with them. The police will be able to provide safe partying tips, let you know of noise regulations, and can assist if the party gets out of control.
Making the party fun
The best way to hold a fun, safe party is to organise activities that will keep everyone entertained. Having a theme for the party can also take the focus off alcohol.
There are risks involved in providing alcohol or allowing young people to drink. As the legal host of the party, you are responsible for providing a safe environment and you could be held liable if anything goes wrong, even after the party if the guests leave drunk.
Making a decision
Australian alcohol guidelines recommend that people under the age of 18 should not drink alcohol. If you decide to serve alcohol, remember that Victoria has secondary supply laws. These laws mean that it is illegal to serve underage guests alcohol without their parent or legal guardian’s permission – even if the party is in your home. It’s also illegal for guests to pass underage guests alcohol without this permission. Hefty fines apply for both adults and minors. It’s a good idea to inform parents if you are intending to serve alcohol and get permission for their child to be served.
- If you do provide alcohol at the party it’s a good idea to:
- Ensure no one under 18 years is served or given alcohol unless you have their parent’s explicit approval.
- Set up an agreement between yourself and your child about alcohol and adult supervision.
- Make alcohol available from one area only and have a responsible adult serving who is not drinking alcohol.
- Take special care to control how much alcohol is drunk and only serve low-alcohol drinks. Make sure good non-alcoholic options are on hand.
- Avoid drinks like punch that could be easily spiked.
- Ensure that food is readily available for all party guests. Try not to serve salty snacks as they make people thirsty and could cause them to drink more.
- Plan for guests sleeping over if no one is able to take them home.
Confiscating alcohol and drugs
Whether you decide to allow alcohol or not, you may have to deal with guests bringing alcohol and drugs to the party. Talk about whether you will confiscate alcohol and drugs with your child and think about what you will do with them. If you return them at the end of the night, you could be held liable for any accidents that happen after the guest leaves the party. You could consider returning the substance to the guest’s parent.
As part of setting the party rules, talk about what you will do if a guest becomes intoxicated. Intoxicated guests can ruin the party for others and cause dangerous situations. As the host, you have the right to send the guest home – although it’s a good idea to organise transport to make sure they can get home safely.
You may also want to set some ground rules about smoking, especially if the party is being held in your home. If you already have rules about smoking at home, they could also be used for the party.
Gatecrashers and security
Gatecrashers are becoming an increasing problem at teenage parties, but there are a number of steps you can take to reduce the risk of them spoiling your party:
- If you are concerned about security, restrict the guest list.
- If you’re having a big party, consider hiring security.
- Have only one entrance to the party. Secure side or back gates if necessary.
- Ask other adults to help you supervise the party and organise for one to be on the door.
- Offer around food and drinks throughout the party so you can subtly keep an eye on things.
- Make sure that vehicle access is not blocked for emergencies.
- Phone police if gatecrashers arrive.
As the party host, it is your responsibility to ensure your guests get home safely because young people may not be able to make this judgment call. It’s a good idea to:
- Find out how your guests are getting home and who is driving. If a guest has been drinking, they shouldn’t be driving.
- Encourage parents of younger children to pick them up at the end of the party.
- Encourage guests to come by taxi or with a driver who won’t be drinking.
Obviously, children will make mistakes from time to time. It’s important to give them enough space to make these mistakes, but to be their safety net. At some point your children may find themselves in situations where things start happening that they aren’t comfortable with, but they stick around, mainly because they feel like they don’t have a way out and are concerned about what their friends will think.
Bert Fulks (a US teacher, speaker, business owner/manager, writer and musician) recently wrote ‘X-Plan: Giving your kids a way out’. His family has something called the ‘X-Plan’. This simple, but powerful tool is a lifeline that kids are free to use at any time.
Here’s how it works:
Say their son attends a party and something about the situation makes him uncomfortable, all he has to do is text the letter ‘X’ to his mother, father, older brother or sister. The one who receives the text has a very basic script to follow. Within a few minutes, they call his phone. When he answers, the conversation goes like this:
“Son, something’s come up and I have to come get you right now.”
“I’ll tell you when I get there. Be ready to leave in five minutes. I’m on my way.”
At that point, he tells his friends that something’s happened at home, someone is coming to get him, and he has to leave. In short, their son knows he has a way out. At the same time, there’s no pressure on him to open himself up to any social ridicule.
However, there’s one critical component to the X-Plan: Once he’s been extracted from the situation, their son knows that he can tell his parents as much or as little as he wants … but it’s completely up to him. The X-Plan comes with the agreement that they will pass no judgment and ask no questions (even if he is 20km away from where he’s supposed to be). This can be a hard thing for some parents but Bert feels it might not only save them, but it will go a long way to building trust between you and your child. One caveat here is that their son knows if someone is in danger he has a moral obligation to speak up for their protection, no matter what it may cost him personally.
You might consider using something the X-Plan at home.
Sources: Victoria Police, Matt Brinson (Head of Senior School) and The Other Talk