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Should you be 'teaching your child how to drink responsibly' and what does that realistically mean?

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The school year has only just begun across most of the country and I am already being contacted by parents who are having issues with alcohol and parties. Almost all of those who have got in touch with me are doing their best to maintain the rules and boundaries they have set up to keep their teen as safe as possible but now find themselves really struggling, mainly due to other parents who are either providing alcohol at parties or simply choosing to 'turn a blind eye' to the issue. One particular phrase that I've now heard a couple of times is that these parents claim that when they provide alcohol to their teen in this way they are 'teaching their child to drink responsibly'.

One mum recently contacted me to tell me about a conversation she had with her daughter's best friend's mother over the Christmas break. This was someone she had known since their children were in kindergarten together, a woman she believed had very similar values to her. Their dau…

Parents of Year 9s: Prepare yourself for a bumpy year when it comes to sleepovers, parties and gatherings

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If you're a parent of a child just about to begin Year 9 it's incredibly important to prepare yourself for the upcoming 12 months when it comes to sleepovers, parties and gatherings. Getting things right now can prevent lots of problems in the year (and years) ahead.

The party culture begins to build in Year 9, sometimes very quickly. Although most young people at this age will choose not to drink, alcohol starts to become a part of their socializing experience, usually at pre-parties, with a small but influential group regularly drinking, some to excess. In addition, for those of you with daughters, the more mature Year 9 girls begin to get asked out by young men a couple of years older than them and, as a result, these very young women subsequently find themselves invited to Year 10, 11 and even Year 12 events where alcohol is far more likely to be available. When I visit schools I so often hear something along the lines of "We've got some real issues with our Year…

What do you do when a parent provides alcohol to your teen without your permission? Here's how one mother handled it ...

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Each year I am contacted by a number of parents about this issue. In almost all cases they have recently found out that another parent (usually one hosting a party or gathering) has provided alcohol to their child and now that they have this information they have absolutely no idea how to respond. Some of them certainly confront the other parent, however, most of them are too worried that if they do respond in any way at all it could result in a backlash against their son or daughter in some way (e.g., they'll be socially excluded in some way by their peers). As a result, they end up feeling totally frustrated and powerless, furious that another parent would do this sort of thing but too worried to do anything about it.

I have written about this issue before but have decided to raise it again because I have just got off the phone from a Mum and a Dad who are really struggling with what to do next. They have asked me not to use their case in this piece but what I am able to say is…

What about giving your child a 'sip' of alcohol? What does the research say about that?

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Even if they don't necessarily agree with the research, most Australian parents are now aware that when it comes to alcohol and young people the message is 'delay, delay, delay'. Put simply, when it comes to brain development the later your child has their first drink, the better. As I've written many times before, drinking alcohol during adolescence doesn't cause 'brain damage' per se, it reduces their potential. If you want your child to be the best they can be, you should try your best to ensure their first drink happens as late as possible. But when we say 'first drink', what do we actually mean by that? Are we talking about a full glass or a sip? Is it the first drink that causes the potential problems or regular drinking over a period of time? The issue is complicated and I've tried to assist parents to make their own decisions in this area by highlighting up-to-date research findings around the parental provision of alcohol. One issue I …

My teen is off to Schoolies (or Leavers): What should I be saying to them to keep me sane and them safe?

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It's that time again and with Year 12 exams wrapping up across the country, I'm getting contacted by growing numbers of parents asking questions about Schoolies Week (or Schoolies Festival as it is known in SA or Leavers Week in WA). As some of you may have seen I found myself on the front page of the Gold Coast Bulletin last weekend, apparently calling for the Queensland event to be scaled back to three days instead of a week long party, bringing it in line with what happens in SA and WA. Let's make it clear, I wasn't 'calling' for anything … I was asked in a very lengthy interview what happened in other states and I told the jounalist. I was then asked did I believe the Gold Coast should follow suit and I replied that I didn't think it was a bad idea. It would make it more manageable, more affordable for young people and their parents, and the shorter the time, the more likely potentially risky behaviour would be reduced to some degree. That was it, I ce…

Teens and alcohol: What parenting practices are likely lead them to drink, drink to excess or get drunk and which are protective?

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There have been many studies examining what influences young people's drinking behaviour. I have discussed many of these, including recent Australian research looking at parental provision of alcohol and whether or not it was 'protective'. Even though greater numbers of school-based young people choose not to drink, the reality is that most Australians will drink alcohol at some point. It is a legal product and so closely linked to socializing and having a 'good time' in this country, that it will be some time yet (if ever) before that situation changes.

Some young people are going to drink and the one thing that every parent wants is to ensure that if they do, they do not drink to excess. That's why some parents choose to give a couple of bottles to their 15 or 16-year-old child to take to a party, i.e., believing they know what they're drinking and therefore they'll be safer. So what do we know about what influences teens to choose to drink? More imp…

"Don't tell my Mum!": The importance of letting your teen know they can call you anytime, anywhere and no matter what you will still love them

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I've written many times about the importance of letting your child know that you are happy to be part of a plan if something should ever go amiss when they are out. Every time they leave your house they need to hear you say "If you need me, I'll be there, anytime, anywhere - no questions asked!" It's important to say that there are bound to be lots of questions the next morning or at least some time after the incident but, even if you have to gaffe-tape your mouth shut on the way home from wherever, stay true to your word and have the discussion later. All you want to do at the time is to make sure they are safe. Hopefully you will never receive the call, but if you do, your child needs to know you'll be there for them. 

Over the past few weeks I've been back on the road, travelling across the country speaking to young people. As always, I continue to be blown away by how incredible our kids are and the way they respond to the messages I deliver. As many o…