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It’s that time of year again, when year 12 school leavers head off to various locations for their annual ‘schoolies’ celebrations.
For young people who participate in schoolies, it’s an important time in their life; and often considered a rite of passage as they move into adulthood.
If you’re a parent this may be a worrying situation, especially if it’s the first time your child will be without direct adult supervision for an extended period.
But you can help your teenager enjoy schoolies while reducing the risk of problems with a three-tier strategy:
1. Be informed.
2. Be the model.
3. Be the voice.
To help your teenager enjoy the celebrations and reduce the risk of trouble, you need to know where they’re staying, who they’re going to be with, and their plans for activities.
It can also help to speak to their friends, or friend’s parents, to get a better understanding of their plans.
Access to alcohol is often a given for young people at schoolies events, but research has found that alcohol can interfere with the development of the brain (which continues to develop until we reach our mid-20s).
Practical advice for those attending is to drink as little as possible, never get drunk, and encourage their friends to do the same.
It’s essential for young people to understand alcohol laws. In most states and territories anyone who supplies a minor with alcohol is breaking the law unless they are the child’s parent or guardian, or have their approval.
Discussing how you would handle or behave in different situations is a powerful guide for your children.
One important strategy is to plan how they can handle adverse events; ask your children to come up with a Plan A and Plan B in the event of different problems or situations that they may find themselves in.
Teenagers will suggest they can call for help on a mobile phone, but what if they lose the phone, or the battery is low?
What can they do if someone is hassling them to have a drink, take a ride in a car, or leave their friends?
Research indicates young people drink less when they know their parents prefer them not drinking. If possible, chat to the parents of your teenager’s friends, and try to agree on common expectations. A united front by all parents is useful.
Above all, make sure your teenager knows they can contact you at any time if things go wrong.
Schoolies week is a time of release and celebration for graduating Year 12 students in Australia. It can be a liberating but also a risky time, particularly in the context of exposure to alcohol and other drugs.
Preparation and planning by students and their families can help them enjoy it rather than regret it.
Have you had “The Other Talk” with your children? It might not always feel like it, but research shows that parents are the biggest influence on their children.
So just in the same way that most parents will overcome the awkwardness and sit down with their children to have ‘the talk’ about sex, it’s important to do have the other talk about alcohol and other drugs.