Safe Partying: Have you had this Conversation with Your Child?

As the school year winds down, the desire to celebrate with friends steps up. Opportunities for social engagement with peers are important to adolescents and in many ways essential to their personal development of social and emotional capabilities, strengthening independence, and assessing risk to minimize the potential for harm. Being deprived of many opportunities to 'party safe' in the past two years due to Covid lockdowns and public health orders has impacted them to the extent their development has not been steadily progressive and now for some, it's time to 'go hard'.

While we have maintained a harm minimization approach to teaching and learning in this area of the health and wellbeing curriculum, and students in Years 10 to 12 attended workshops with Paul Dillion from the Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia, have you had a conversation with your child about partying safe?

Research indicates that teenagers are more likely to party safely if they are well informed about the possible risks, given some tips for partying safely, and take some time to plan ahead. Talk to the young people in your life about what they know about the risks associated with partying, such as:

Young people need to have some freedom, so they learn to become independent, but discussing your concerns is also important.

Tips include:

  • Talk to your child about where they are going, who they are going with, what time they plan to come home and their travel arrangements.
  • Tell your children that if things don’t work out with their transport arrangements, they can always call you for help at any time and you will pick them up (or arrange for someone else to, if possible). Don’t punish them if things go wrong as they may not ask for help again.
  • Try to make sure they have money, a working mobile phone and other appropriate safety requirements such as a designated driver.
  • Have the mobile phone numbers of your child’s friends and their parents in case of emergencies.
  • Make sure your child has something to eat beforehand. A full stomach slows alcohol absorption.
  • Encourage your child to stick with their friends and look out for each other.
  • Arrange a ‘code word’ for your child to use over the phone if they secretly wish to be picked up, but don’t want their friends to know.
  • Ask them to download the Emergency Plus App (which links to emergency services and indicated GPS location)
  • Negotiate partying rules
  • Parties are likely to go much more smoothly if you negotiate the rules beforehand. Tips include:
  • Establish reasonable and clear-cut rules together: for example, curfew times and the acceptable number of alcoholic drinks.
  • Make sure your child has input into the decision making.
  • Talk about why the rules are important.
  • Make sure there are consequences if your child doesn’t follow the rules. Work collaboratively to come up with these so they feel like they have ownership over them too. Some examples of consequences might be not being able to use their phone for a period of time having to do extra chores.

Party at a friend’s house

The ground rules in one house can be different to those in another. If you are concerned about your child attending a party at a friend’s house, ask your child if it’s okay if you call the host’s parents. You can then find out if drinking and smoking will be allowed, and if there will be adults around to supervise.

Arrange to collect your child at an agreed time

Party at home

With a few simple plans in place, a good time can be had by all – even the parents.
Tips include:

  • Register the party with police at least one week in advance.
  • Have adults on hand who are not drinking to monitor the party and act as ‘bouncers’. A good ratio is one adult to every 7–10 guests.
  • Ask gate-crashers to leave immediately or threaten that the police will be called. Follow through with your threats.
  • If you are concerned, consider hiring a security guard – it may seem extreme, but it could give you (and your guests) additional peace of mind.
  • Insist that the party is invitation only. Ask your child to ask their invited friends not to SMS the details to anyone else.
  • Indicate clearly on the invitation whether the party is ‘alcohol free’ or if alcohol is provided or is BYO. Say whether cigarette smoking is permitted. State firmly that illegal drugs are not welcome.
  • Clearly state the start and finish time on the invitation.
  • Invite parents of party guests to call beforehand for more information.
  • Serve plenty of food, water and soft drinks.
  • Don’t serve home-mixed alcoholic drinks or put alcoholic drinks in large containers such as punch bowls, as guests will find it hard to keep track of their drinking. Standard drinks served in standard-sized glasses or bottles are easier to monitor.
  • Be aware of the laws about serving alcohol to minors. In Victoria, it is an offence to provide alcohol to minors on private property without parental consent.
  • Avoid self-service of alcohol. Nominate one responsible, non-drinking adult as ‘bar person’.
  • Consider a party with a focus (such as a theme or live band), as they tend to distract guests from continuous drinking.
  • Be vigilant if you have a swimming pool – intoxicated guests may fall in.
  • Have a plan of action if a guest becomes drunk, abusive or ill. Always call 000 in an emergency.
  • Make sure that each guest has a safe way to get home. Call their parents if necessary.
  • Turn the music down after midnight.
  • Secure all valuables on your property.
  • Call the police if you feel that a situation is beyond your control.
  • While initiating this kind of conversation may feel forced or awkward, speaking from experience, you and your child will feel more confident in “partying safe” and hopefully they will get the message that you trust them and that no matter what you will always be there as back up should the need ever arise.

And on the subject of Vaping

Vaping is a new phenomenon that most parents know little about. Unfortunately, much of the information available appears confusing due to the current debate around the issue. Public health groups have successfully lobbied government to restrict access to vaping, believing that it could lead to increasing numbers of young people smoking. Harm reduction advocates, however, claim it will assist those who want to quit smoking and save lives. However, did you know that under Australian law, it is illegal to buy, possess or use liquid nicotine for vaping without a prescription from a GP. Each state has its own penalties which range in fines from$1,100 (NSW) to $30,00 or up to 2 years in prison (ACT).

I have included several parent resources below to assist you in dealing with this very complex area. Whilst Paul Dillon was unable to deliver a Parent Education Program (PEP) talk for us this year, we have him locked in for 2023. In the meantime, you may find the link in this edition to one of his online seminars for parents helpful.

In optimism & kindness,

Director of Counselling

Acknowledgements & further resources

Partying Safety: Tips for Parents
Party Safe Checklist for Parents

Vaping Resources for Parents

DARTA Fact Sheet for Parents
DARTA Information Sheet for Parents: What if you discover your child is vaping?
DARTA Information Sheet for Parents: How to respond to common vaping statements
Vaping Resources for Parents