Every parent's nightmare – but how do we say no?

The phrase "empty house" now sends a shiver down my spine

Share
Related Topics

For every parent of a teenager, wild parties are the stuff of nightmare. And the biggest nightmare of all is the party where someone gets hurt –or, worse, dies.

Over the weekend, that nightmare became a reality for two sets of parents in west London. One couple is Lynne Jones and Patrick Reilly, whose 15-year-old daughter Isobel – a girl described by her headteacher as extremely popular, and by one of her friends as "gorgeous... and truly amazing" – is dead. The other parents are Brian Dodgeon and Angela Hadjipateras, whose 14-year-old daughter Beatrice was the party host.

The circumstances of Isobel's death are unclear, but it seems likely that she became ill after taking drugs. Beatrice's father has been arrested on suspicion of drug possession and child abandonment.

There will be those who say that teenagers should never be allowed to have a party. There will be those who say that Mr Dodgeon should never have left his daughter and her friends alone in the house.

But I suspect that most people who, like me, are parents of teenagers, will simply look with terrible sadness at the pictures of Isobel – a lovely young girl, so like our own children, just emerging from childhood on to the brink of adult life – and think: what are we to do? How can we cope with the ever-increasing demands from younger and younger teenagers for parties, for "gatherings", for opportunities to drink alcohol and experiment with drugs, for chances to socialise, socialise, socialise – often at events that totter on the precipice of disaster?

I'm absolutely certain that I won't be the only parent who reads the story of Isobel's death and thinks: there but for the grace of God go I. My older daughters are 19 and 16 – and like every parent with children of 19 and 16, the past few years have brought more than their fair share of party-related horrors. Children in hospital, damage to our home, visits from the police after neighbours' complaints, alcohol bottles emptied without permission... we've had all this and more, and we're not unusual.

Some, though not all, of the problems have occurred during unauthorised events while my husband and I have been out or away – indeed the phrase "empty house" now sends a shiver down my spine, especially when I hear it being whispered conspiratorially into a mobile phone, as in: "Tonight's gathering is at Joe's... he's got an empty house..."

The bottom line is, parents of teens are in a quandary. Stop kids from ever having a party, and your fear is you'll force them into the local park to booze and smoke pot. Allow them to gather their mates at home, and you risk being blamed for the horrors that result, especially if you bow to the (usually extreme) pressure to be out for at least part of the evening. Give them alcohol, and you'll be pilloried for condoning under-age drinking (even if you've bought beer and wine with the lowest possible alcohol content). Don't allow alcohol, and you know the likelihood is they'll smuggle in vodka and down it as though it was lemonade.

All we want is to do what's best for our children, in a less-than-perfect world. But these days, it seems to many of us that doing what's best is harder to work out than it's ever been.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (ASP.NET, F#, SQL, MVC, Bootstrap, JavaScript)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Payment Developer (Swift, FOX, Vigil, .NET, SQL)

£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Payment Dev...

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Big deal: Changing what we eat must be a better option than cutting into people’s stomachs  

Gastric bands are as useful as a plaster on a severed artery

Zoë Harcombe
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?