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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'

Coping with the classic "You're the only one who does that" statement from your teen

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'Sticking to your guns' when it comes to any adolescent issue, whether it be rules around screen time, household chores or alcohol and teenage parties is never going to be easy. You can start off with the best of intentions, attend every parent information session, read all the right books and think that you have it all covered but when it finally comes down to actually putting it all into practice it can be really tough.  Here is part of a message I received from Carol, a mother struggling to maintain her stand in relation to alcohol and her teenage son: "I'm constantly being told by my son that I'm the only one who calls other parents to find out what's going on at parties and even my best friend (who I've known since I was in Year 1 and always said to me that she would stick with me around the whole alcohol and parties thing when it came to our children who are the same age) said that I'm out on my own when it comes to saying 'no' to my 16-ye

5 issues for teens to consider when it comes to vaping

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Earlier this year I wrote a blog providing some advice for parents who were struggling with the vaping issue. I had been contacted by an increasing number of parents who had discovered their child was using e-cigarettes and when they tried to challenge them about their use they were met with responses that they feel ill-equipped to deal with appropriately. The purpose of the piece was to assist parents, who knew little about the new phenomenon, when responding to some of the statements that their child was likely to throw at them in any discussion around the vaping issue, e.g.,  "But it's not smoking" .  The article I wrote was not an attack on 'vaping' or those smokers who are looking for an alternate nicotine delivery system. I have made it clear time and time again that I'm not interested in being involved in the current debate about vaping and its role in smoking cessation - my only concern here is for young people, their parents and teachers. I was not pr

5 tips to help ensure your child has healthy attitudes around alcohol

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The social pressure to drink in this country is unbelievable and as a non-drinker I have found it increasingly difficult over the years to find things to do with friends and family where alcohol is not firmly positioned at the core. If I find it difficult at my age (and I do, much more difficult than it was in the past), how difficult must it be for our current generation of teens who are constantly bombarded with messages that to socialise you must have a drink firmly placed in your hand? When you add the pressure from family members to 'fit in' and avoid social exclusion, it is surprising that there are any teens who make the decision not to drink. What is so incredible is that if you look at the data around school-based young people and alcohol it is evident that we actually have a growing number of adolescents that are doing just that. We're not taking about just reducing the amount they drink, we actually have more young people who are choosing not to drink at all! The