Teenage parties - when things go wrong: A paramedic's perspective

With the holidays not too far away and the summer season almost upon us there are will be more and more parties and gatherings your teen is going to want to attend. These are important events and if your teen wants, or more importantly, 'needs' to go to them, you should try to find a way. This is where many young people learn to socialize in a different way from when they are at school and they can play a vital role in establishing where they fit (i.e., their social standing) within their peer group. At the same time, it is also important to remember that if your child doesn't want to go to parties - that's absolutely ok too! Don't worry that they're going to become some kind of 'social outcast' because they're not into this sort of thing - they'll usually find their own way at their own pace. Now as I've said many times before, when I say 'try to find a way' to let them go to a party, I don't mean that you throw all your rules a…

"You mustn't tell anyone what I'm about to tell you - do you promise?": What can (and should) a parent do with information their teen divulges?

Last week I was approached by two parents who were faced with a similar dilemma - both of their children had told them something in confidence about one of their friends in relation to alcohol or other drug use. One of the parents had actually made the decision to come to my parent session because of the situation and was really struggling to work out what, if anything, she should do with what her son had told her. To protect the identities of all involved I have altered the names and some of the details of the stories but hopefully you'll get the general idea …

Renee believes she has a good, strong relationship with her 14-year-old son, Angus. They talk a lot and she knows most of his friends, as well as many of their parents. Last weekend, he went to a small gathering and, as always, she picked him and a few other boys up. After she dropped off the last one she could see that Angus was not himself. When she asked him what was wrong, he hesitated for a while but finally divulged …

Some practical (and safer) tips to support teen brain development and turn a time of "peril into promise"

I've often written about the fact that teens are 'missing a piece of their brain'. It's something that I joke about with young people when I speak to them and ask them if they've ever suddenly done something quite bizarre and out-of-character and then just seconds later think to themselves, why did I do that? Without fail, almost every person in the room smiles and nods, acknowledging that, yes, they can totally relate to that experience … Strictly speaking, of course, teens are not actually 'missing' a piece of their brain, it's just that there are some important areas have not yet fully developed.

Development in the brain occurs in a back to front pattern, with the prefrontal cortex being the last area to fully develop, for females around the age of 21-22 years and for males much later (around 25-26 years at least, but recent evidence suggests that some development may continue until possibly even 35!). This prefrontal area is the part of the brain t…

Why are teens more likely to make bad decisions at parties? 'Hot' contexts and four messages for parents to help protect their teens

Almost every parent of a teenager has experienced that moment of complete exasperation and bewilderment when their (usually) reasonably intelligent and thoughtful child does something so stupid and so seemingly out of character that it's almost too difficult to process! This could have involved them breaking a rule that you had thought you had made very clear, making a choice that just doesn't make any sense no matter how you look at it, or in the worst-case scenario, deciding to take part in an activity that could have realistically resulted in injury or death.

No matter how smart your teen is and no matter how strong a relationship you have with them, the fact of the matter is that all adolescents are going to make dumb decisions at some time or another. Adolescence is a period of risk-taking – it's an evolutionary feature to encourage them to "engage in high risk behaviour and leave the village and find a mate". Of course, as I have said in the past, it's …

How do you sober up a drunk person? The importance of talking to your teen about 'sobering-up' mythology

The mythology that exists around 'sobering-up' techniques is quite amazing. I have collected countless stories about young people finding themselves or their friends in trouble after trying to speed up the sobering-up process. Generation after generation has tried to find a way of recovering from the negative effects of alcohol as quickly as possible, but put simply there is only one thing that will help you sober up and that is time. 
Many of the methods utilized by teenagers were previously used by their parents (and possibly even their parents' parents). For a very long time the two most popular 'sobering-up' methods were undoubtedly 'drinking a strong cup of coffee' and 'putting someone under a cold shower'. Fuelled by popular culture these strategies have been reinforced over and over again. How many times have you seen someone in a movie or TV show being given a black coffee to sober them up after a big night out? Neither of them are effective…

Where do you stand on 'underage drinking'? Have you really thought it through and worked out how you are going to manage the issue?

If you have ever attended one of my parent sessions you would know that they are not 'interactive', put simply, I talk and you listen! Right at the beginning of the year I made a decision to 'shake it up' a little and get the audience involved in one of my Parent Information Evenings. I did this by beginning the talk by asking those attending to turn to the person next to them and share their views on the following question - "Where do you stand on underage drinking? What are your rules around alcohol for your son or daughter?" It was fascinating to watch the response! Firstly, you could see many parents who simply did not feel comfortable expressing their opinions in this area with others, regardless of where they stood. Some, but certainly not all, parents who have a strict rule of 'no drinking' are worried that they will be seen as 'wowsers' or being overly protective, particularly if they have older teens. While parents who may have more …

'Talk to your child at night, late at night': A valuable strategy to help parents 'keep connected' to their teen

Go to any parenting session and no matter who is presenting or whatever angle they're coming from, they will undoubtedly stress the importance of 'keeping connected' to your child, particularly during the adolescent years. Now as I'm sure many of you with teens of your own are saying, that is so much easier said than done! Trying to maintain a positive relationship with a 14 or 15-year-old can be extraordinarily difficult but is vital if you're going to survive the years ahead. During this time, your child is going through a whole pile of changes (physical, psychological and emotional) and trying to find their place in the world. They are desperate to establish their own identity and, in doing so, often pull away from their parents and, as a result, their peers become increasingly more important in their lives. It's a tough time for all involved! As one Mum wrote to me a couple of years ago:

"Every conversation I have with my 15-year-old at the moment ends…