An invitation to an 18th: An example of some parental effort resulting in an extremely positive outcome

Things have certainly changed since I was at high school in terms of the importance of an 18th birthday. As I often say to Year 12s, the 18th was not a particularly important celebration in my day as our entry into adulthood was the 21st. Having a great big party in your final year of high school, right in the middle of your ATAR is not the greatest of ideas but I'm not here to challenge that - as I said, things have changed and now parents have to work out how best to deal with this event should their teen want to celebrate it. As I wrote a couple of years ago, it certainly makes sense in many ways - they are now officially 'adults', they can vote, drink alcohol legally and no longer be regarded as 'underage' … Unfortunately, any parent who decides to agree to an 18th birthday has to navigate through the incredibly complex 'alcohol issue' and work out how best to deal with a group of young people, some of whom are now legally able to drink alcohol (including their son or daughter) as well as the other underage partygoers who are not. I've written a number of times before about the different ways parents handle this issue and the different options they have available to them. Some of these include the following:
  • the trust option
  • the wristband system
  • a bar service where proof-of age has to be given before alcohol is served
  • hold the event on licensed premises
If you want more information on these, take a look at my blog entry called 'How do you best handle the 'alcohol issue' at an 18th birthday when there will be many underage young people present?' Regardless of what option a parent chooses they are going to have to put some effort (hopefully in collaboration with their son or daughter) into the event's planning and organisation to help ensure it not only runs smoothly but that every partygoer is kept as safe as possible. The major problem in this area is that no parent wants to embarrass their teen and insist on rules and boundaries that apparently no-one else imposes. No matter your views on this issue, you want to make it an event that your child's friends will want to attend and not be so restrictive that it will impact on who will or won't attend.

This week I received an email from a father who had recently attended one of my Parent Information Evenings who wanted to share his positive experience around his son's 18th birthday party. He also included the invitation he had written that was sent to parents of the young people attending, some of whom would be 18 and legally able to drink. After reading the invitation I asked him whether he would give me permission to include it in this piece and he agreed. This is an edited version of his email, as well as a slightly altered copy of the invitation that removes any identifying information:

"Our son in Year 12 had his 18th birthday party in the first week of school this year and we were very worried about excessive drinking or gate-crashers. Our son informed his guest list that the party was not to be mentioned on any social media and we sent the letter below to all the parents. I'm happy to say that with 52 guests (mostly 17-year-olds) we had zero problems and everyone behaved with absolute respect. Of the 52, about 20 drank alcohol and none to excess. Thought you might be interested in our letter below."

Dear __________
We are delighted that ________ has been invited to _______ 18th birthday party being held here at our home on ____.

With a group of young people of mixed ages - both 17 and 18, we have sought advice from the NSW Police and also from the Liquor and Gaming Authority in regard to the best way to both safely and legally conduct the party. We have been advised that parents and guardians can allow alcohol to be provided to minors at a private gathering at home, however it must be consistent with responsible service and the supervision of the minor. We confirm that there will be good supervision at the party.

We suggest that if you approve of your child consuming alcohol, that it be brought by them and be limited to a maximum of 4 drinks, being beer, wine, cider or cruisers only. We ask that NO bottles of spirits be brought. We will have ample supply of water, soft drinks and food, but we will not be supplying any alcohol ourselves. Many of our son's guests are non-drinkers and some have advised that they only will bring a couple of low alcohol drinks, while a few may bring the max of 4 beverages. Please be assured that this is not the focus of his party, however with a mixed age group of young adults, we just wanted to clarify that those wishing to drink can bring sensible amounts with parental permission.

We also ask that arrangements be made by you to ensure that your child is collected and taken home safely. If your child drives to the party, they are welcome to leave their car here on our property overnight. The car can be collected anytime on the Sunday. The party will be from 6.00pm until 12 midnight.

If your child will be attending our son's party, could you please do the following:
  • Reply to us and confirm if you DO or DO NOT give permission for your child to consume the alcohol that you permit them to bring?
  • Send us your mobile telephone number for us to have on record.
Our son has asked that the invitation NOT be shared on social media. 
We will have a licensed security guard at the gate to ensure that only invitees are admitted, so we are sure that it will be an enjoyable and well controlled party.
Thank you
Kind regards
__________________

There is so much about this invitation that I love. It's important to acknowledge that it's certainly not going to work for all parents (more about that a little later) but for those who hold similar views in this area and want to put make the effort, it provides a very useful template. It's not too long (so important as we know that most people rarely read anything below the first paragraph of most material they receive) but nevertheless manages to cover some vital information. Some key points include the following:
  • it outlines the law in this area - these parents did their homework and contacted the appropriate authorities, including the police and they have provided that information to parents of the invitees, explaining clearly how they are going to follow the law, i.e., "We confirm there will be good supervision at the party"
  • it acknowledges that some of the young people are non-drinkers - too often parents are so concerned about the drinkers, they forget that there are those that will choose not to consume alcohol. Acknowledging them in the invite is powerful
  • it states clearly that alcohol is "not the focus" of the party - you don't see that too often when it comes to an 18th!
  • spirits will not be allowed - if you're going to have issues at teen parties, particularly around poisonings and visits to emergency departments, it is likely to be due to spirit consumption. If young men are going to drink alcohol, beer is the best option as it is fairly self-limiting, i.e., you drink, you bloat, you throw-up! It is a bit more difficult when it comes to young women but the lower alcohol pre-mixed drinks are less likely to cause problems, particularly if you have a limit on how many can be brought into the party
  • host parents' expectations about how invitees get home from the party are clearly stated - the finishing time is provided and there is an acknowledgement that some may drive to the event
  • invitees' parents are asked to reply and confirm their child's attendance and their stance on the alcohol issue to the hosts 
  • a contact number is requested should the invitees' parent need to be reached on the night or before or after
  • it acknowledges the danger of sharing invitations on social media and highlights that their son has mades an explicit request for that not to occur
As I've already said, this approach and the resulting invitation is not going to necessarily work for all parents. There would be some who would have issues with any alcohol being brought to an event where there were partygoers who were underage, while others may believe that the host parents' stance on alcohol is too restrictive (I hear "But it's their 18th, most of them will be 18 - a couple of drinks won't hurt them" so often!). The number of drinks the host parents are permitting to be brought could also be an issue, with some seeing it as too many while others believe that putting any limits on how much is brought is potentially problematic. I remember meeting one mother a few years ago who totally believed if you put limits on numbers of bottles brought to a party it would simply encourage teens to rebel and smuggle extra alcohol in and push the drinking underground. To each their own!

Whatever the approach, all anyone wants for their child is for them and their friends to be safe. Of course you want the party to be a success and for everyone to have a great time but the health and wellbeing of all invitees is of paramount importance. There are no guarantees when it comes to teen parties and gatherings - you can put all the effort in the world into the organisation and things can still go wrong. That said, with just a bit of effort you are far more likely to end up with a great night that was enjoyed by all and if any problems did arise they were likely to be able to be handled far more easily. Using this wonderful invitation as a template for an event you're considering hosting, where your expectations are clearly outlined and information is provided to other parents about the party and what will be happening there, could be a great first step ...

Comments

  1. I wish I had this template back in November as I held my daughter’s end of year party. Most were under age and I didn’t know how to go about setting the boundaries before hand.
    I have just one Question...
    I don’t know 90% of the parents in my daughter’s class. How do people go about getting in contact with as this gentleman did 50+ parents? My daughter was worried I’d ruin the party and embarrass her, so she was not forth coming with parent contacts

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We hosted our daughter's 14th party last year, and whilst alcohol, drugs or smoking was not an issue, not knowing the parents of most of the children was a concern. I only knew 4 of the 15 parents of her guests. The way we got around this was to work with her on the guest list and then I informed her that only those kids who's parents had personally sent me their contact details and I had had a two-way conversation with, would be permitted to attend. She was a bit embarrassed by this initially however I soon discovered I was not alone in this approach as once I started talking to the parents, many felt the same. Needless to say, there were no issues, however I then had every parent phone number in case anything went wrong (and this has proved helpful in future terms when needing to reach out for one reason or another).

      Delete
  2. For my nephew's 21st, my brother made the ruling that he would invite only those whom his son knew the full names and home addresses of, as the invitations were being mailed. As part of this process, his son had to get the parents' ph numbers so that my brother could make contact before the event. The number of 20/21/22 year olds at the party was about 25 - people that my nephew genuinely knew. There were also about 25 family members. My brother hired card dealers/magicians for a casino night, which went very well - everyone got the same value in chips at the start, and there were various prizes through the night. It was an entertaining night for all ages.
    Similarly my sister does not allow her children to stay over unless she has met their friends' parents. Her invitations are very similar to the example: the young adults can stay over, but she identifies very clearly who will be sleeping where, what alcohol will/will not be available, and then gives a specific pick-up time. She knows the parents of her young adult children's friends very well, and her rules are no longer embarrassing but actually appreciated by both parents and their offspring, as well as her own kids.

    ReplyDelete

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