This article was published in the Parent Bulletin on 18 March 2021 with the title: Respectful Relationships, Consent and Parent Responsibilities with Private Parties.
In most cases, Melbourne Grammar School families hold successful and enjoyable parties for their teenage children and their friends. Parties are an important social outlet for teenagers. Under the right circumstances, they should be encouraged.
However, on a regular basis, Melbourne Grammar School staff members and I are advised about a night time party which turned into a nightmare party. Where is the joy in a birthday party that is gate-crashed by strangers or where guests are physically or sexually assaulted, where alcohol misuse arises, illicit drugs are present, the house is damaged, neighbours are disturbed, and the police are required to intervene?
While Melbourne Grammar School is concerned about the welfare of staff and students at all times, our legal responsibility does not extend to private parties. This is a responsibility that parents cannot abdicate. However, when things go wrong, invariably the School extends its care to those who are affected.
In your conversations with your children about private parties, the two most important things you can say to your children are ‘I love you’ and ‘No’. The word ‘no’ is important. As parents, we are not here to be our child’s best friend; we are here to love our children. Part of that love is to set and maintain clear boundaries. Saying ‘no’ is not always easy, especially when it comes to parents negotiating expectations surrounding teenage parties.
Parenting has never been easy. Most of our parents did their best with the skills and resources they had, often under some challenging circumstances. With the wisdom of hindsight, and after experiencing the challenges of parenthood firsthand, most of us have greater appreciation for what our parents did for us.
Is parenting getting harder? I think so. We have the communications revolution to deal with; students make quicker and wider connections with others via the web, email, and text messaging. They are more materially wealthy than any previous generation, are probably more demanding, more willing to challenge authority, and want far greater freedom.
I firmly believe that compassion and understanding, rather than judgement and accusation, are the secrets to success in both education and parenting. Likewise, structure, routine and discipline are vital, even though at times the exchanges with a teenager can feel like a battlefield. Teenage parties can be a family disaster but good planning, understanding and having some sensible guidelines in place is the recipe for success.
In speaking to parents regularly about this issue, I appreciate that you might find some guidance from the School useful. You can find that in myMGS, the School's parent portal.
You can also view the School’s Policy on Parties, Dances and Social Matters, and our Policy on Smoking, Alcohol and Illicit Drugs in the parent portal.
Melbourne Grammar School’s Commitment
Melbourne Grammar School has an excellent personal development program that addresses the biological and social issues associated with drugs and alcohol, respectful relationships and consent.
We take a strong stance against students who use alcohol, tobacco or drugs whilst under the care of the School.
Our School Counsellors, Chaplains and Pastoral Care Staff make themselves freely available to our students and their parents to discuss any issues associated with parties, adolescence, peer pressure, and drugs and alcohol.
Please do not hesitate to discuss any of these issues with your daughter/son’s teachers, House Tutor, the School Counsellors, Chaplains, Head of House, Head of Campus, classroom teacher or me. Naturally your queries will be treated with respect and confidence.
I ask for all parents to work with us on these matters at all times.