Summer Holiday Fun
By Michelle Mitchell
My Tips to Making School Holidays Fun!
For me, school holidays are all about creating memories with my kids. I want to sit around a dinner table with them as adults and reminisce about the crazy fun we had together. The last things I want them to remember are fights over the TV remote.
There is an art to enjoying school holidays. These tips actually really help me have a great time with my teenagers.
- Be prepared to get out of the house, away from the television and technology. We create memories by engaging our senses and imagination. A change in environment can make all the difference.
- Plan ahead, especially if you work full time. That means you need to start thinking now. Don't go with the same old boring routine. Mix it up a bit. Try something new. A great question you can ask yourself is, "How can I be a fun mum or dad these school holidays?" or "What memories can we create together?"
- This tip is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL for me. If I begin the school holidays by investing three days of undivided attention into my kids, I usually overt any disasters and everyone settles into the school holiday routine well. I used to get worried that they would expect the same investment of money and time for the whole holidays (that's almost a bit too honest isn't it?). Now I know it actually works in reverse. Don't wait until they are bored and fighting to get things moving.
- It's not just what you do that makes it fun, it's actually your energy and enthusiasm that makes it fun. Whatever you can afford to do and where ever you go, if your kids are with you they will be having a great time.
- You don't always have to ask what they want to do. Teenagers don't always want to be family orientated. I plan mystery destination days to avoid the "I don't want to" conversation. Alternatively create a list of things they want to do together, and makes sure you get to add a few of your own in there. It's not all about them.
Summer Parties – When to Say Yes and When to Say No
"My almost 15 year old daughter has been invited to a party. She hasn't been invited to a 'party' since primary school days (about three years ago) and I know parties will be different at this age. She has a nice small group of friends that she does fun things with, like go to the movies, but this party involves a broader group of girls - the invitation isn't from her smaller group. Whilst I want her to enjoy a wider group of friends, this is her first teenage party and therefore mine as a parent. I'm wondering what questions I should be asking. Should I contact the parent of the party girl to ask more questions and to check it out or am I being paranoid and stepping over the mark? What's your advice?"
So many parents have been in your shoes, wondering if asking the tough questions is an indication they are paranoid. However, need I remind you that parties (or "gathoes") are places where teenagers PLAN to have FUN, get up to mischief and express their independence? Parties come with an element of risk, and all teens (even good kids) need to know how to handle themselves in a higher risk environment.
- Thank God they have been invited to a party! Celebrate this with them. Acknowledge their excitement. This is really important.
- Establish a process which happens every time they are invited to a party. They should already know that they DO NOT GO unless there is adequate supervision. This often stops them from asking to go to parties that aren't supervised.
- Get the host parents' phone number. This is no small feat in itself. These days party invites come in the form of text messages, and parents seldom see an invitation.
- Gather as much information as you can from your teenager before phoning the parent directly. These are the basic questions you want to cover when talking to the parent:
- How many people will be at the party?
- What will be happening?
- How many adults will there be?
- Will there be alcohol?
- If so, how will you manage consumption?
- What will you do if you discover drugs?
- From this point you can assess the risk. Larger parties and sleepovers often have a higher risk factor. You can minimise the risk by minimising the amount of time they spend at the party.
- When you drop them off go into the party to check it out. Always give the host parents your contact details. They need to know where to find you in case of an emergency.
- Teenagers will usually tolerate you giving them a lecture prior to a party. They expect it. Have a consistent message when it comes to drugs, alcohol and sex. Use fact rather than emotion. You can never repeat yourself too many times.
- Some families agree on a key phrase that they can either text or say which signals, "Things are not going well, come and get me". This key phrase could be "Have you washed my jeans yet?" or "What's up with you Mum?" Always, always tell them they won't be in trouble for something someone else has done.
- This is my word of warning. The fact that parents are supervising doesn't mean parents will be supervising your child. I have seen some crazy things happen at supervised parties.
Q & A's about Summer Parties
What Rules Should I Put in Place?
Even though you can't control what your teenager does when they are away from you (don't you wish they came with a remote control), there should be some clear guidelines of how you expect them to behave. It's important that you don't just grab a bunch of regulations that don't resonate with you. Your rules should represent your family and be important to you. Don't compare your rules to those of other families - expect them to be different.
What Time Should I Pick them Up?
Agree on a drop off and pick up time. Agree to wait out the front of the party for your teenager but tell them you will come in (and possibly embarrass them greatly) if they are late. Don't negotiate on the pick up time once it is set. Three to four hours at a party is a reasonable amount of time.
If your daughter telephones you because she is in trouble agree to pick her up and get her home without having a big argument about it then and there. Bring her home. Bring her home. Bring her home.
Don't ever let your daughter stay the night at the place where the party in being held. There are so many things that can go wrong when a party becomes a sleepover!
What if They Get Into Trouble?
Every teenager needs a 'stealth parent' every now and then. For stealth parenting to fly into action, teenagers should use a code word. For example: If your daughter needs to get picked up from a party but doesn't want to look silly in front of her friend she might ring you and ask, "Have you washed my jeans yet?" "Have you washed my jeans" is the code word.
As soon as you hear your daughter use the code word you know that you need to demand that she comes home immediately. You might respond this like, "Washed your jeans? I'm not going to wash your jeans! You need to learn to wash your own jeans young lady. In fact you left tonight without washing anything that you were supposed to and if you don't get yourself back home this instant I am going to throw those jeans in the rubbish bin. I'm picking you up in 10 mins and you better be waiting out the front or I will be marching in there and picking you up by your heels."
Your daughter may choose to put you on loud speaker to show her friends how much of a lunatic you actually are and why she has the leave the party early! After getting into the car while rolling her eyes and pretending she can't stand the sight of you, you can both go home and share a cup of hot chocolate together. That is what I call 'stealth parenting'.
How Do I Handle Alcohol?
Research is suggesting that there is a great amount of confusion amongst parents as to how best moderate their child's drinking. You need to assure that each party will have different rules when it comes to alcohol consumption.
I prefer teenagers to not drink alcohol at all. If you are not of this opinion please agree on an amount of alcohol your daughter should drink and supply it for her rather than have her get it from older friends. Please remember that alcohol dramatically increases the risk of unprotected sexual activity, injuring, violence and high risk behaviour.
If you suspect your daughter has drunk more alcohol than the agreed upon amount (or taken drugs for that matter) you can breath or drug test your teenager and make it a prerequisite for going to parties.
How do I know if a party is safe?
These are the questions you need to ask the party host before you say 'yes' to a party.
- How many teenagers will be attending?
- How much adult supervision will be supplied?
- Will there be alcohol? If so who is supplying it & how much?
- Do you have a plan if things get out of hand?
- Can I give you my phone number in case you need to contact me?
What do I need to consider as the party host?
If you are the one holding the party here are four brief tips from my local police that you can research in more depth before the big day!
- Plan ahead & have security
- Manage the alcohol (or better still have a non-alcoholic event)
- Have a plan in order to diffuse explosive teenagers
- Don't confront gate crashers – call the police
About Michelle Mitchell
Michelle Mitchell is the Founder of Youth Excel and Author of "What Teenage Girls Don't Tell their Parents"