You are sending a very strong message to your child when you agree to provide alcohol to minors. Most importantly, you are telling them to ignore the law – alcohol is an illegal drug for those under the age of eighteen. The laws are different across the country with New South Wales having the strictest laws in this area, but what you are saying to your child when you provide alcohol at an underage party is that although you want them to obey other laws, this one they can ignore!

If you allow your child to drink alcohol in your home with a family meal or even at a family get-together, that is your choice as a parent. But providing alcohol to young people at a party is very different. There are very few parents who want their children to drink alcohol to excess. Almost every parent who gives their teenager alcohol to take to a party or provides it to those attending a party they are hosting does it for the right reasons. Often parents will say to me that they make it very clear to their child that they don’t want them to drink alcohol as they’re handing over bottles or giving them money to buy it, somehow thinking that this is going to have some sort of positive outcome. In fact the only message the child picks up is ‘my parents gave me alcohol’. This tacit approval plays an important role in how your child views alcohol.

I can definitely understand some of the arguments that parents use when they agree to provide alcohol to teenage parties, particularly if they are hosting events for young adults who are close to the legal drinking age. However, many of the arguments put forward simply don’t hold up under scrutiny. Possibly one of the most ridiculous is when parents say that they are providing a ‘safe environment’ in which their teenager can drink and that if they didn’t their child would simply go off and drink somewhere else unsupervised.

I challenge any parent hosting a party where alcohol is being supplied to underage teenagers to prove that they are providing a ‘safe environment’. Even in licensed premises where alcohol is kept behind a bar and strict rules around responsible service govern how it is provided to patrons, it can be extremely difficult for staff to keep track of how much people have been drinking. However, then, can a parent hosting a party really supervise a number of teenagers and ensure that they are drinking responsibly?

There is no handbook on how to be the perfect parent, nor is there one on holding an incident-free teenage party. Without doubt, the best thing you can do to reduce the risks is to make the event alcohol-free. If you believe that this is not an option for your child at their stage of development, make sure you take every precaution to make the party as safe as possible for all concerned.

Discussion on this topic has continued in a more recent post, continue reading here.

Writer Paul Dillon, Generation Next speaker and drug and alcohol expert. Excerpt from “Teenagers, Alcohol and Drugs”. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.