Teenage parties: the basics
As your child gets older, he’ll probably want to go to parties with his friends. Don’t panic!
Teenage parties are fun, and they can also be a chance for your child to:
- develop independence, responsibility and confidence
- make new friends and build social skills
- introduce her friends to your family.
It’s normal to feel worried about letting your child go to parties. You might feel particularly concerned if you don’t know the host or how likely it is that alcohol or other drugs might be on offer.
Your child might have mixed feelings too – excitement, nerves, anxiety. If you and your child talk about your feelings and work out a plan together, parties can be something you both feel happy and comfortable with.
Your child might want to host a party at your home. 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 safety.
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 whether:
- there will be adults at the party
- there will be alcohol, and what you’d like your child to do if there is
- the party will stay in one place or move somewhere else during the night
- your child knows anyone else going to the party.
What if your child doesn’t want to share details of the party? 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’.
You could also get in touch with the party’s host, depending on the age of your child. If you already know your child’s friends and their parents, it can be easier to take this step. Knowing the parents might also help you feel confident that your child will be well looked after.
Your safety concerns will probably change as your child and her friends get older. And you might also find that as your child gets older, she comes up with plans for dealing with safety concerns herself.
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 he goes to parties. The rules might include how your child will get to the party, when and how he’ll come home, and the rules about 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 the two of you might need to use problem-solving steps to find a compromise you can both live with.
If your child breaks any of the rules you’ve agreed on about the party, you can follow up with a consequence. Consequences work best if they’re meaningful and you 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.
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 she can call you at any time, in any condition, if she or her 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 programmed into it.
- 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 he’s embarrassed about calling to ask to come home. For example, he 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 her physical safety, or set up an emergency safety app on her phone.
Children with additional needs going to teenage parties
If your child has additional needs, you and he need to be confident that he can be safe and enjoy himself at parties. For example, a child at risk of anaphylaxis will need to know how to check what he’s eating, know any warning signs of anaphylaxis, and have his EpiPen® with him 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.