Teenage parties: the basics
As your child gets older, they’ll probably want to go to parties with their friends.
Teenage parties are fun. They can also help your child:
It’s natural to feel a little worried about letting your child go to parties, especially if you don’t know the host or their parents. Your child might have mixed feelings too – excitement, nerves and uncertainty.
If you and your child talk about your feelings and work out a plan together, parties can be something you both look forward to and feel comfortable with.
Your child might want to host a party. Planning a party with your child can be fun, and setting ground rules together will help things run smoothly and keep partygoers safe.
Going to teenage parties: balancing fun and safety
If your child wants to go to a party, you can balance your child’s desire to have fun with your concerns about risks.
You can join in the fun by encouraging your child to have a friend over to get ready with, brainstorming gift ideas if it’s a birthday party, or helping your child plan an outfit.
Safety is important too. It’s OK for you to ask:
- Will there be adults at the party?
- Will there be alcohol?
- Do you know anyone else who’s going to the party?
- Will the party stay in one place or move somewhere else during the night?
- What time will the party finish?
- What will you do if something unexpected happens at the party?
Your child doesn’t want to tell you about the party
In this situation, you could explain why you’re asking. For example, you might say, ‘I’m worried that you might be at risk at this party. I can’t agree to you going if I’m not sure you’ll be safe’.
Depending on the age of your child, you could also get in touch with the parents of the party’s host. A lot of parents do this. If you already know your child’s friends and their parents, it can be easier to take this step. And if you don’t know the other parents, talking to them can give you a sense of whether your child will be safe at the party.
When parents check on teenage parties – for example, by calling the host to find out whether alcohol is being served – teenagers are less likely to drink.
Ground rules for going to teenage parties
Some ground rules can help your child stay safe when they go to parties. The rules might cover things like:
- how your child will get to the party
- when and how your child will come home
- what your child should do if there’s alcohol.
These ground rules might change as your child gets older.
You and your child might have different ideas about some of these rules, so you might need to work together on problem-solving steps. This can help you find a solution you can both live with.
If your child breaks any of the rules you’ve agreed on before the party, you can follow up with a consequence. Consequences work best if they’re meaningful and you both agree on them beforehand. For example, ‘The deal is that you’ll be home by midnight. If you’re not, you won’t be able to have friends over for a week’.
You can read more about using consequences in our article on discipline strategies for teenagers.
Your concerns about risks and also your rules will probably change as your child and their friends get older. And you might also find that as your child gets older, they come up with their own plans for dealing with risks.
When things go wrong at teenage parties: back-up plans
Sometimes things go wrong. The party might not be supervised adequately, your child might use alcohol or other drugs, or gatecrashers might cause problems. It’s a good idea to have a back-up plan, just in case.
Here are some ideas:
- Let your child know that they can call you at any time, in any condition, if they or their friends need your help – no questions asked.
- Make sure your child’s phone has your landline, mobile number, partner’s mobile number and other emergency contacts.
- Give your contact details to one of your child’s friends.
- Make sure your child has enough money for an emergency taxi ride home.
- Have a coded message that your child could use if they’re embarrassed about calling to ask to come home. For example, your child could send a text message checking on a sick grandparent.
- Come up with some strategies to help your child say ‘no’ to alcohol or other drugs without losing face. For example, ‘I'd love to but I have to work in the morning’, or ‘I’ve got a big game tomorrow and need a clear head’.
- Give your child a personal alarm to carry if you’re concerned about their physical safety, or set up an emergency safety app on their phone.
Children with additional needs going to teenage parties
If your child has additional needs, you and they need to be confident that they can be safe and enjoy themselves at parties. For example, a child at risk of anaphylaxis will need to know how to check what they’re eating, know any warning signs of anaphylaxis, and have their adrenaline injector with them at all times.
You might also want to speak to the host, or your child’s friends, to ensure they’re aware of the risk and know what to do if a problem comes up.