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Keeping your child safe once they leave school: "Tell me why I shouldn't be worried"

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I was recently asked to write an article for Connect, an online fortnightly publication for parents and teachers across the Sydney Catholic school system. Although it was the drug-related deaths at music festivals over the summer months that attracted most of the attention, sadly there were other young people that died as well. Over the Australia Day long weekend an 18-year-old young woman who had only just recently graduated from a Sydney Catholic College tragically passed away after reportedly taking the drug GHB. The girl's father, spoke exclusively to the publication urging parents to warn their children that "just one silly mistake could be their last". The article containing that interview is a 'must-read' for all parents. What haunted me the most in the story was the description of the father dropping his daughter off on that fateful night: "As she got out of the car, he told her to stay safe and she replied "I love you". He drove off conte…

Increasing pressure to be 'perfect': Let's not forget we have wonderful kids and amazing parents out there

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Can you imagine being a teenager in today's complex world? My teen years were particularly tough but I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like to go through adolescence in this era of social media. Every image of them is scrutinised and judged by the world at large, as is all that they do and say. We may have done stupid things when we were young but, for most of us, there is no photographic evidence of any of it. Today, there is no room for a mistake or an error in judgment, as every activity is likely to be captured by some sort of electronic device and be available forever for people to examine, criticise and condemn. That's got to be tough ...

It's the same for parents. Talk to your own parents about what they did when you were young and most will certainly let you know that they didn't have any book or parent seminar to raise you and your siblings. They just got on with it … Today, however, there is far greater access to information on how to parent …

6 things you need to tell your P-plater child about being breathaylsed and RBT

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It's the Easter weekend and police will be 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 and they are planning to go anywhere over the next few days, it is highly likely that they will be pulled over and breathalysed. 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.

Random breath testing was introduced across Australia in different jurisdictions during the 1980s (e.g., NSW in 1982, Tasmania in 1983 and Queensland and WA as late as 1988). Since then, trauma from fatal crashes involving alcohol has dropped, e.g., in NSW it has fallen from about 40% of all fatalities to the 2017 level of 15%. It's a strategy that works and, unlike speed cameras (which some people regard as a 'revenue raiser'), it has wide community suppor…

'Pre's' and 'free's': What are they and why are they so popular?

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There would be very few parents of teens who are not aware of 'pre's', i.e., smaller gatherings held at someone's home before the actual party or other event, (e.g., school formal, concert, music festival, etc) where young people meet to prepare for the night ahead. This usually (but not always) involves some sort of pre-loading on alcohol, particularly if they know that the event they are attending has security present or the parents hosting the party are known to be vigilant when it comes to underage drinking. Some of these events are actually hosted by parents who want to provide a 'safe space' for their child and their friends to drink alcohol. As I have said many times before, what you do with your child around alcohol is totally your business, but inviting other people's children to your home to drink without ensuring that is okay with their parents is shameful. I also question the idea of allowing your teen to have a few drinks and then sending them…

What do you say if your teen asks you if you used drugs?

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Without a doubt some of the most difficult conversations you're ever likely to have with your teen are going to start with them asking questions about your behaviour as an adolescent. Although these sometimes come out of nowhere, they usually arise when your child wants to do something you don't want them to do (i.e., rules and boundaries are set and they don't like them) or they have been caught doing something they shouldn't and there's been a consequence imposed. The questions may be relatively easy to deal with such as whether you got into trouble at school, or what you got up to at parties and whether you broke rules or not but, on the other hand, they may be really challenging and have to do with your sexual behaviour during that time of your life and/or your past alcohol and other drug use. Now, if you and your partner were absolute 'angels' and you never did anything wrong (and if that is the case, both of you are quite unique!), then you really do…

New study finds parents are now even more likely to be the most common source of alcohol for teen drinkers: Why is this happening?

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The 2017 Australian Secondary Students' Alcohol and Drug Survey (ASSAD) report was recently released. This presents information on the use of tobacco, alcohol, over-the-counter drugs (for non-medicinal purposes), and other substances in school students aged 12 to 17 in Australia. Around 20,000 students from public, Catholic and independent schools from across the country participated in the survey and it provides a great insight into what is currently happening in relation to alcohol and other drug use and school-based young people.

There are lots of positives in this report, particularly in regards to tobacco and alcohol. Fewer students are smoking and, those who do, smoke fewer cigarettes. The number of 12-17-year-olds who reported never drinking alcohol increased once again to more than one third (34%), up from only one in ten in 1999. Students were asked to select the most appropriate description of their drinking behaviour, with around 70% seeing themselves as 'non-drink…

You can’t just do the 'fun part' of parenting, you have to do it all!

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As much as I go on about how amazing our kids are today (as I always say, I am fortunate enough to get to meet incredible young people doing unbelievable things every day), I have to say I also come in contact with some pretty impressive parents as well. Mums and Dads from across the country who work so hard to ensure their teen is safe, happy and loved. It continues to blow me away just how many people can show-up at a Parent Information Evening, particularly this year, with numbers averaging well over 200 each night. This could be due to the drug-related deaths of those young people at music festivals over the summer period, but nevertheless, we live in a busy world and most families are 'time-poor' - to turn-up and listen to a talk after a day at work and/or looking after a family is a huge commitment. Of course, there are always going to be those scary ones who want to be the 'cool parent' and try to be their child's best friend and, unfortunately, those are l…