Parents need to look at teen parties

SIMON SMITH
Last updated 05:00 21/11/2012
Marc van Krieken and Barbara Divehall
COME TOGETHER: Constable Marc van Krieken and guidance counsellor Barbara Divehall encourage parents to attend a meeting to learn how to keep their children safe for the upcoming party season. ‘‘I want parents to get back into their teens’ lives instead of letting them go,’’ Mrs Divehall says.

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The best way parents can stop teenagers running amok is to create their own social networks.

With Facebook and cheap text messaging it is increasingly common for parties to quickly spiral out of control.

Guidance counsellor Barbara Divehall and police are hosting The Parents Link, giving caregivers the knowledge they need to manage children's behaviour.

The free meeting is at Botany Downs Secondary College on December 5.

"What I see in families now is that the child is actually the parent and dictating what's going to happen on a Friday night," Mrs Divehall says.

"Parents, you have to step up and be part of your child's life."

One example of what can go terribly wrong happened earlier this year when a 16-year-old held a party, unbeknown to his parents who were away on holiday.

Text messages were sent out and about 100 youths arrived at the East Auckland house.

The father does not wish to be identified as his family "has been through enough grief already".

"It kind of gives me the creeps when I think that these young people had free reign on our house."

The party took a more sinister turn when someone entered the master bedroom and stole valuable jewellery.

"Most of it was heirloom jewellery," the father says. "It was hugely distressing for my wife.

"Things are still pretty fragile in the house as far as the atmosphere is concerned."

He encourages parents to attend the meeting and to talk with their teens "about the devastating effects that gatherings can have for families".

The Parents Link evening is open to all caregivers but is particularly aimed at those with children in year 9 and 10.

Constable Marc van Krieken says it is at this age teenagers start to attend parties and often experiment with alcohol and drugs.

"For every parent, even though their kids are angels right now, at the flick of a button they can become absolute nightmares - and for no other reason other than they are teenagers," the youth aid officer says.

Knowing what children are doing is of heightened importance because over the past year there has been "a significant increase" in the number of serious assaults at teenage parties, he says.

"I guess what we are trying to do is to give the power back to the parents by networking with other parents.

"As opposed to all these parents working singly and all these kids working together in one group and ganging up on the parents, which essentially is what's happening."

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Mrs Divehall says the earlier parents start communicating with other caregivers the better, because when children get older they will see it as normal.

"If you've got a child at your home who turns up and is staying the night and you don't know who that child is, find out who it is and ring their parents," she says.

The Parents Link will be at Botany Downs Secondary School on December 5 from 7pm to 9pm. Tea and coffee will be provided. Contact b.divehall@bdsc.school.nz for more information.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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