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Drinking alcohol on top of taking prescribed medication: Have you discussed this issue with your teen?

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An article in a recent edition of the Daily Telegraph highlights the current "nationwide shortage of child psychologists" , which was an issue pre-COVID but one that's become far more significant since the pandemic began. It discusses "massive waiting lists" and, provides results from the Australian Association of Psychologists' (AAPi) latest national survey of 600 private psychologists that found "nearly half of practices were unable to accept new clients - an increase of 10 per cent on 2020." Anxiety and depression were on the rise prior to the pandemic but COVID and all that goes with it, including lockdowns and restrictions, have certainly not made things easier. In 2012, 18.6% of young Australians aged 15-19 years reported 'psychological distress' (a predictor of mental health problems, including anxiety, depression and suicidal behaviour). In 2020, that had risen to over one quarter (26.6%), with young women being at greater risk (34

How the first 3 months of high school can impact on future alcohol and other drug use: 5 simple tips to make sure they 'thrive' not simply 'survive' during this time

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This is an updated version of a blog entry that I wrote some time ago and, in response to requests from parents, I've reposted it at the beginning of the school year a number of times. This version has been shortened down and is hopefully more 'user-friendly', ending with five simple things that parents can do to help support their child through the first few months of high school. I'm sure some people have fond memories of their first day of high school - I'm not one of them! The move from a state primary school to a private high school was tough. I knew absolutely no-one and felt completely alone.  Thankfully, it's now extremely rare for children to be thrown into high school and left to fend for themselves, with most schools developing and implementing transition programs to ensure that no-one 'slips through the cracks' during this potentially difficult time. Even so, it's vital that parents realise the school can't do this alone and that they

6 things your teen P-plater needs to know about about RBT and being breathaylsed

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This is a slightly updated version of a blog entry that I wrote a couple of years ago. I've put it together due to a number of parents contacting me in the past few weeks requesting a copy of the previous article to give to their teens who had recently got their P-plates.  Even though the Christmas/New Year period has just passed, it's still school holidays and we're going to continue to see police out in force on the roads in an effort to prevent senseless tragedies from occurring. Random breath testing (RBT) units will be stationed on roads across the country and if you have a young driver at home, it's highly likely that they will be pulled over and breathalysed in the weeks ahead. For as much as it called 'random', in reality, very few P-platers mange to drive past an RBT unit and not get ushered into being tested. Victoria was the first state in the country to introduce RBT way back in 1976. It was then introduced across Australia in different jurisdictions

Teens need to have some fun in the upcoming holidays but we want them to be safe: 'Age-appropriate monitoring' is vital

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Over the past few months I've written very few blog articles, mainly due to the extended lockdowns and resulting restrictions that have been in place in parts of the country. Many young people have been unable to socialise as they usually would and it became extremely difficult to write pieces that were applicable to the majority of Australian parents. I have, however, been delivering many online parent sessions in recent weeks with a focus on what happens next, i.e., with restrictions eased, what behaviour are we likely to see when it comes to teens and socialising?  Of course, there are some parts of the country that have been comparatively COVID-free (e.g., WA, NT and Tasmania) and although there have been a number of disruptions and short lockdowns, for the most part, life did not change dramatically for teens living in those jurisdictions. It's important to remember, however, that no matter what their 'COVID experience', they have been watching one of the most chal

Talking to your teen about vaping: How to prevent them starting or getting them to stop if they've already vaped

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Recently I delivered a webinar for parents for the Mid North Coast Local Health District on the topic of vaping. Like so many other parts of the country, schools and parents in the area were requesting information and assistance around the use of e-cigarettes, particularly in relation to school-based young people. The event was well-attended and I provided some basic information about vaping. Particular attention was given to how parents should talk to their teen about vaping, particularly if they've recently discovered their child has used or is currently using these devices. Since that presentation I have continued to use the same material in other talks I have given. Nothing I said was particularly earth-shattering but I've been surprised by how many emails and DMs I've received from parents who, after hearing what I said, have gone away and used my advice and have had a positive outcome.  Before the advice here's a quick summary of where I believe we are currently a

Buying drugs via social media apps: They're all just a click away!

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In the past few months I've been contacted by a number of parents who have reached out for advice in relation to their teen's drug use. In some cases they discovered what their child had been up to completely by accident (e.g., finding a bag of pills and caps in dirty washing), others had police call to inform them their teen had been arrested and could they come to the local station, while others were summoned to school to be told their teen was being expelled for dealing. To ensure confidentiality all of the stories discussed in this piece have been slightly altered but they'll hopefully give you the general idea. None of the stories are unique and although the available evidence clearly shows that the vast majority of school-based young people do not illicit drugs, some teens will experiment and will suffer the consequences if they get caught. What blew me away about all these cases, however, was that each and every one of these teens purchased their drugs via social med

Be careful about making promises to your teen you may not be able to keep in a COVID-19 world

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One of the worst aspects of living in a COVID-19 world is the uncertainty that accompanies the pandemic. As the past week or two has shown us, things can change very quickly and just as we seemed to be returning to some degree of normalcy, we suddenly get the rug pulled out from beneath us and we find ourselves right back where we were a year ago ... What has saddened me greatly is receiving messages from young people across the country who are absolutely devastated that something they were looking forward to was suddenly ripped away from them due to a lockdown. Here is one such email: "My name is Anya and I've just turned 16. This weekend I was going to be having my 16th birthday party but it's just been announced that we're going to go back into lockdown and we've had to cancel it. Everything that was planned has now gone. It was going to be amazing and the first real party my year group has had since COVID. Everyone was looking forward to it because we haven'