This blog post is written in response to this parent question:
My almost 15 year old daughter has been invited to a party. She hasn’t been invited to a ‘party’ since primary school days (about 3 years ago) and I know parties will be different at this age. She has a nice small group of friends that she does fun things with, like go to the movies, etc., but this party involves a broader group of girls – the invitation isn’t from her smaller group. Whilst I want her to enjoy a wider group of friends, this is her first teenage party, and therefore mine too as a parent. I’m wondering what questions I should be asking…the obvious ones like who’s going? What will be happening there? Will there be any alcohol? Do the party girl’s parents know? …but I’m sure there are more things I should be asking to ensure my daughter is safe (and how do you know the answers will be truthful although at this stage I have no reason to doubt except from reading your blogs, etc)? Should I contact the parent of the party girl to ask more questions and to check it out or am I being paranoid and stepping over the mark? What’s your advice?
So many parents have been in your shoes, wondering if asking the tough questions is an indication they are paranoid. But need I remind you that parties (or “gathos”) are places where teenagers PLAN to have FUN, get up to mischief and express their independence? Parties come with an element of risk, and all teens (even good kids) need to know how to handle themselves in a higher risk environment.
Here are some tips on how to respond to a party invite:
– Thank God they have been invited to a party!!! Celebrate this with them. Acknowledge their excitement. This is really important.
– Establish a process which happens every time they are invited to a party. They should already know that they DO NOT GO unless there is adequate supervision. This often stops them from asking to go to parties that aren’t supervised.
– Get the host parents’ phone number. This is no small feat in itself. These days party invites come in the form of text messages, and parents seldom see an invitation.
– Gather as much information as you can from your teenager before phoning the parent directly. These are the basic questions you want to cover when talking to the parent:
~ How many people will be at the party?
~ What will be happening?
~ How many adults will there be?
~ Will there be alcohol?
~ If so, how will you manage consumption?
~ What will you do if you discover drugs?
– From this point you can assess the risk. Larger parties and sleepovers often have a higher risk factor. You can minimise the risk by minimising the amount of time they spend at the party.
– When you drop them off go into the party to check it out. Always give the host parents your contact details. They need to know where to find you in case of an emergency.
– Teenagers will usually tolerate you giving them a lecture prior to a party. They expect it. Have a consistent message when it comes to drugs, alcohol and sex. Use fact rather than emotion. You can never repeat yourself too many times.
– Some families agree on a key phrase that they can either text or say which signals, “Things are not going well, come and get me”.
This key phrase could be “Have you washed my jeans yet?” or “What’s up with you Mum?” Always, always tell them they won’t be in trouble for something someone else has done.
– This is my word of warning. The fact that parents are supervising doesn’t mean parents will be supervising your child. I have seen some crazy things happen at supervised parties, as you can read in my book “What Teenage Girls Don’t Tell their Parents – Chapter 4: Never Trust a Teenager”. You need to know they are mature enough to handle themselves without adult supervision before you allow them to go.
Nigel Latta’s book Politically Incorrect Parenting: Before Your Kids Drive You Crazy has a section on party planning which I highly recommend. It is a great read.
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What Teenage Girls Don’t Tell their Parents is available at www.michellemitchell.org for $24.95 plus postage.
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