Winter is coming – Christmas is coming.
Does the thought fill you with excitement or dread?
Whilst the Holidays is extra special when we have young children in the house, the presence of teenagers tends to add a little ‘Je ne sais quoi’ to the “Christmas Cocktail”.
So what can we do to avoid the pitfalls of the party season with our teenage children – whilst still trying to maintain the magic that this time of year has to offer?
When your children are still little – the only real worries are whether you can get your hands on the latest “must have” toy or determining what ungodly hour they will wake you at on Christmas morning, in their bid to see whether or not Santa has paid them a visit.
With Teenagers however the problems are similar but different. You may also be woken at an ungodly hour on Christmas morning (if indeed it you’ve been able to get to sleep in the first place) as they stumble through the front door, after a night out with their friends.
So how do you prepare your child for the party season?
Adapting to the new rules and boundaries as our offspring flex their muscles in a bid for independence, takes some adjustment for parents and teens alike.
Forewarned is Forearmed.
The trick with these celebrations and how to manage them, is to avoid any unwelcome surprises. So now is the ideal time to start talking. You still have the luxury of time – so start establishing everyone’s expectations right away.
The big question around house parties is … “Will You Host One?”
Before you curl up in a ball and screech “Never in a Million Years!” … Hear me out. As there are many benefits to having a party in your own home – I kid you not.
SOCIAL : Hosting a party is a great way of getting to know your child’s friends. As our children get older, their friends become a more important part of their lives. Often we find that our children listen to their friends more than they listen to us. So it’s a wise tactic to “understand the enemy”. Don’t get me wrong – not all influences from peer groups are negative. I am just saying that it can be hugely rewarding getting to know who your child hangs out with.
KUDOS : Let’s face it – You can be the cool parents with the cool kid. Because often times partying young people are made to feel unwelcome – especially at if they are on the look-out for a venue.
CONTROL : As the resident adults, you can still maintain a degree of perspective and influence on the festivities.
I ask you the question: “Wouldn’t you rather know where they were?”
SUPPORT : Are you sick and tired of nagging all the time? I’ve learned, first hand, that hosting a party is a great olive branch that can be passed between you and your child. It shows that you trust your child (okay… Not 100%… but enough!)
CONFIDENCE : This ties in with the previous point. If your child feels that they have your support it’s a real boost to their confidence; coupled with the fact that they have the opportunity to invite their friends along, gaining too the appropriate brownie points.
Adopting the party mindset.
In my experience, hosting a party has a lot to do with your own approach.
Remember my mantra:
E + R = O
Event plus Response equals Outcome
( i.e. How you react to a certain situation determines the end result )
1. Have Fun
Remember, parties are meant to be fun– right? Cut some slack and go with the flow. There WILL be a mess – it’s a party for goodness sake! Beforehand indicate what’s acceptable behaviour and what’s not.
2. Expectations & Boundaries
Discuss and agree the ground rules well in advance. If you don’t get agreement then it just ain’t happening. You will know what boundaries work best for you. Suggestions are :
- Timings : When will it begin and when will it end
- Numbers : How many are allowed
- Your Presence : For Jack’s first party, I insisted on remaining on-site. The compromise was I was banished to one room. His younger sister, Alice, regularly returned from “the front” with dispatches to keep me updated.
- Drink : Is it permitted? What’s the allowance? ( if applicable ) Who provides it?
- Food : Will there be food available. I offered limitless supplies of pizza from 10:30pm – this helps to mop up the alcohol being consumed. The bonus being, I was released from exile!
3. Be prepared
- Environment : Clear the scene of breakables and precious objects.
- Family & Pets : It might be wise to arrange for younger family members ( and possibly pets ) to be relocated for the evening and looked after by someone else.
- Bouncer : It’s sometimes wise to have someone on the door granting access. An older sibling is ideal – as they may know who their siblings friends are – and therefore who is indeed invited. Failing that – a couple of student friends ( way cooler than a dad with a clipboard! )
4. On the Night
- Let your silent presence be known. This is often has an impact on the behaviour of the partygoers from the outset.
- Sweep “restricted areas” regularly. My dad missed this step – Only Once. For a long time he mourned the loss of his prize bottle of Single Malt that was allegedly washed down with Own Brand Cola!
5. Calling a Halt to Proceedings
- Order Taxis : kids never do this until it’s way too late – By which time they are tired and emotional and “over-served”.
- Turn on lights
- Stop the music
- Bring out the vacuum cleaner
- Appear in your pyjamas
All these options work. I have tried them all. However I recommend option one, as it helps you maintain your ‘cool status’ – Avoiding unnecessary embarrassment in the process.
6. Lessons I have Learned
- Don’t Drink – you may need to drive.
- Relax – it’s fun – Remember?
- Support your child. Things may go wrong. But if you support them, they will learn from the experience.
In the event that you choose not to have a party, it is important to have many of these conversations anyway. Expectations are best managed when there is no pressure and no urgency.
Driving your child to and from parties is another way to get to know their friends and understanding the friendship groups. This can be done in an unobtrusive manner … say nothing – just drive!
Failing that, open an account with the local cab service. They give priority to account holders which ensures your child will not be kept waiting for too long.
Whatever you decide : remember that your relationship with your child is the most important factor in all this. That and there well-being.
Jack said to me after his first party :
“Never again Mum! The responsibility is way too stressful.”
That said : I encourage you to give it a go… What’s the worst that could happen?!
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