From the Principal
30th Aug 2017
Parties, me and my child!!
While the birthdays and other parties of our children are joyous, fun-filled occasions in their earlier years, the oncoming of adolescence and the approach to adulthood brings significant challenges to these events. As parents, we are understandably concerned about the safety and health of our children and the media regularly presents the consequences of poor alcohol-related decisions – enough to concern any caring parent.
Adolescent parties generate pressure from our own children on to us about the party, pressure from other children on to our child about it, and illuminate the varying expectations of families in a single community. This means that parties can be a potent mix of stress and confusion for all of us, regardless of level heads and good intentions. However, there are some clear legal obligations on parents as hosts of an under (or over) 18 event, along with some sensible principles to inform decisions.
First the law.
As parents hosting a gathering, event, or party, you carry the responsibility for the legal conduct of the event. As our children get into the later years of school, this tends mostly to revolve around the consumption of alcohol and in this the law is very clear. Any adult found to be providing alcohol to a minor is guilty of a criminal offence that attracts a maximum fine of over $7,000. This is relieved if written permission is obtained from the parents of any child at your event or party, but as a supervising parent, it is very important to be confident that this permission is genuine, as the burden of proof will lie with you (as the host) if this is challenged later.
This is relatively recent legislation and is acted upon regularly by police. It applies to adults purchasing alcohol on behalf of minors or adults ‘giving’ or providing alcohol directly to minors, whether in a licensed premises or a family home. The legislation is summarised in this link: http://www.teendrinkinglaw.vic.gov.au/young/the_law.php
When planning parties for your children, there are some helpful principles to apply. The list below is not exhaustive, and certainly none of these will be considered “necessary” (or desirable) by your children, which is their role! However, you have paid for the house and birthed and raised your children, so looking after both is certainly your role and all the below may well apply!
- Alcohol at your event is your decision (not your child’s) as per above, but comes with significant risk to you, your child and others. It is wise to manage this with care and forethought.
- Ensure no public (as opposed to private) promotion of the party occurs on Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media platform. If this does inadvertently occur, publicly postpone the event (do not list the postponed date) to avoid the very real risk of a genuine tragedy.
- Employ security for your event, regardless of whether you feel you need it or not. It is a relatively small investment in your family’s and your guests’ wellbeing and safety.
- If your event is of any significant size, ensure that the local police are aware of your event and make sure you are familiar with after-hours noise legislation requirements.
- Meet your child’s guests (and their dropping-off drivers) as they arrive, to ensure you know it is only their good humour and personality they are bringing into your house.
- Seek the support and presence of a number of other parents for the duration of the evening. If they aren’t needed, you will discover your mutual love of good coffee and 70’s music. If they are, then your shared interests will ensure you are supported in the event of anything occurring.
- Set a clear start and finish time for any event and stick to it.
- If you have a guest who appears ‘unwell’ deal with it immediately, first by calling their parents and then as required. These things are easiest to solve immediately and quietly, rather than waiting and hoping, as your child may want you to do!
- At finish time, ensure you have security or multiple parent support ‘out the front’ during the key periods.
The above certainly refers to the worst case scenarios, which very rarely happen and even less often with good planning. While there are no silver bullets in this area and it is salutary to remember that even great people make poor decisions at times, at our School we are blessed with wonderful students, thoughtful and considered, who generally look after each other in the most wonderful ways, and really care about their relationships with the community (and in the end they invariably become a wonderful Tintern alumni!). Their frequency of ‘doing the right thing’ is very high indeed.
There are a number of useful links below that inform on the brain effects, the decision making and the legal ramifications of alcohol and drug use. I hope they might be useful.
Alcohol and adolescent brain development: http://www.education.vic.gov.au/documents/school/teachers/health/factsheet12011.pdf
One Punch violence: resources and information: http://opck.qhvsg.org.au/resources/
Kids help line information: alcohol and risk taking in teenagers: https://kidshelpline.com.au/parents/tips/understanding-risk-taking/
Risk taking behaviors and decision making when affected by alcohol: http://rrisk.com.au/factsheets/alcohol-and-risk-taking/
Alcohol and Drug Foundation: https://adf.org.au/
Factis non verbis