Showing posts from 2015

What if nothing's working and your family is suffering? Three 'must-do's' for parents who are struggling

Hardly a week goes by without me receiving an email or a phone call from a parent who is having a problem dealing with their son or daughter and their alcohol or other drug use. Some of these mums and dads put on as brave a face as possible when they speak to me, while others are terribly distraught, some even breaking down in tears, desperate to find a solution to the problems they are facing with their child. This week I had four parents call me in just one day, all of whom were struggling with very different issues, but all telling me that they felt they really had no idea where to go to get help or advice.

Now I need to emphasise that I am not a trained counsellor or health professional, and I make sure I make that clear to anyone who calls me for advice in this area. I'm also not a parent so it is impossible for me to imagine what these people are going through. I am an educator and I do know a reasonable amount about the research in the area of parenting and alcohol and oth…

Pill testing isn't a silver bullet to prevent drug deaths, but it could be part of the solution

Over the past fortnight we have seen two deaths at dance festivals, apparently both due to ecstasy. Both of these are tragic wastes of young lives and, not surprisingly, the public wants answers as to what happened. It is important, however, that we wait for toxicology and the coroner's report before we jump to conclusions. But as always, the media approaches the usual suspects to make comment and, although we really have little or no information, wild statements are made about possible 'bad batches' or that aggressive policing contributed to the death. Let's be honest here, over the years I've been guilty of finding myself doing a media interview and being pushed into a corner and making a comment that in retrospect was not appropriate. I can also tell you that the last question you are usually asked is "What would you say to anyone who is considering taking ecstasy?" Trying to give a balanced response to that question in the context of of a young perso…

Should we be surprised that teen parties get out of control when we give them so much when they are so young?

I've been putting this blog article together for some time now ... Each time I receive another email from a concerned parent who is struggling on how to deal with their teen being invited to a party or gathering that they just don't feel is going to be safe, I have a little more ammunition and some more evidence that I believe justifies me asking "What in heavens are some people thinking?". But last night when I read an article in the 'Essential Kids' section of the SMH (you can find some really interesting pieces there!) called 'Are primary school graduation formals getting out of hand?', I thought, I can't hold back any longer ...

I recommend you read the whole piece (the author, Kylie Orr, makes some great points throughout) but essentially it was written because of the following 'incident':

"It's now my 12-year-old's turn to "graduate" from primary school. We didn't use the word "graduate" when I fin…

Is cannabis really being laced with 'ice'?

For some time now I have been asked by a range of people (parents, teachers and health professionals) whether I believe it is true that cannabis is being 'laced' with 'ice'. My response has always been that I have seen no evidence to support the claim and realistically if such evidence actually existed then I am sure the police and other agencies would be getting that information out to cannabis users and the wider community as soon as they were able to - not only is it an important public health message, it's also a great story and would generate some pretty major headlines across the country! I haven't written anything about it because I hate giving stories like this any oxygen ... they feed into the mythology and hysteria around drugs and drug use and I wouldn't be surprised if one of the tabloids grabbed a line from something I wrote that said I didn't believe it was the case and twisted it around to say that drug educators were concerned about the …

What makes a good school great? How do you choose a school that's right for your child?

As most of you know I do not have children (as I always say in my talks, if I did, they'd live in a cellar, be chained to a wall and never be let out - I say that in jest but to be honest I'm not really sure what I would do!), but I am frequently asked by parents (and particularly friends who are parents), if I did have children, what schools would I send them to and why?

I come into contact with almost 200 schools each year, across all sectors - public, Catholic and Independent - and I continue to be impressed by the amazing things I see across the country. I don't want to get into the whole 'public or private' debate - parents make a choice about whether they're going to put extra money into their child's education based on a whole pile of things. Certainly faith can play a role for some people (although it would appear this group of parents is getting much smaller) but for many, it's simply they want to ensure that their child has the 'best educa…

Three simple tips: How to host a 'safe as possible' teenage party

I've had a couple of emails from parents recently that have asked for my advice on how to host a safe teenage party. What are some simple things that they can do to make sure the kids are as safe as possible, their house doesn't get wrecked and the police don't get called and the party gets shut down? I've written about this many times before and I get it - holding a party for teenagers, whether it be at your home or somewhere you have hired for the evening, is a huge responsibility and must be terrifying for those parents who want to try to do 'the right thing' but it is important to remember that parties and gatherings are held every weekend, right across the country, many of which run without major problems.

Things can go wrong though and, as such, you need to think about all the possible risks and put things into place to make sure that the party is as safe as possible – for the invitees, your neighbours and of course, you and your family. Of course there a…

Parental peer pressure and alcohol: What if your child says "You're the only one who does that"?

'Peer pressure' is an interesting concept and a term that gets bandied around regularly when it comes to young people and alcohol and other drugs. My thoughts on whether or not this is the major influence on whether or not a teen chooses to drink alcohol or experiment with other drugs are contained in another blog entry ... What truly fascinates me about this area is the inability of some parents to see that it is often they and not their child who are likely to buckle to peer pressure. Time and time again I meet parents who are heavily influenced (or pressured) in this area by what they believe other parents are (or may be) doing (usually because of what their child is telling them). Without a doubt, 'parental peer pressure' is mighty powerful and many people have no idea how to deal with it effectively!

I've been through some emails from parents I've received over the last 12 months and here are just a few quotes that clearly show that some families are exper…

Alcohol permission slips and teenage parties: What are some parents thinking?

'Secondary supply' legislation now exists in almost every state and territory across the country, with SA now the only jurisdiction not to have laws that protect a parent's right to say whether or not another adult provides alcohol to their child. As the ADF states in their factsheet on the subject - "There have been a number of cases in Australia where a person has suffered injuries or died as a result of drinking too much alcohol after being supplied with it by an adult who was not their parent. Regulating private supply of alcohol aims to stop that happening by deterring adults from supplying alcohol to young people without the approval from their parent."

Across Australia a person who is under the age of 18 is not breaking the law if they drink alcohol on private property. However, now, in almost all states and territories, the person who supplied them with the alcohol could be breaking the law—unless they are the child’s parent or guardian and act in a resp…

Endone, Stillnox and other medications: Are Australian teens likely to be using prescription drugs in an attempt to get 'high'?

Two NRL players were recently rushed to hospital after being found unconscious at home after reportedly taking oxycodone, a painkiller prescribed following post-season surgeries. Four days later they left hospital and faced the media, with one of them quoted as saying - "We would like to say we've learnt from our mistakes and we hope everyone can learn from our lessons ... take prescription medication as it is (prescribed) on the prescription box."

As always with sportspeople who get caught out, what was said was well-scripted. We really didn't find out too much more about what had actually happened and there were lots of apologies and regrets. Since then a number of other footballers have talked about their issues with prescription drugs (particularly painkillers, but also antidepressants and antipsychotics) and the NRL have been at great pains to stress that this is not a rugby league problem only - the misuse of prescription drugs was a wider issue.
Most will reme…

Pre-parties, alcohol and security: Is it any wonder that parents are reluctant to host teen parties?

Last week I wrote about pre-parties and how it appeared that more and more young people were attending these events at the beginning of a night out, their parents often unaware that alcohol was not only consumed there, but sometimes even provided by the parents hosting. I had a number of responses, some saying that this certainly wasn't a new phenomenon and had been around for some time. Others wrote to tell me about the pre-parties that they had held at their home that certainly did not involve any alcohol. The interesting thing about almost all the comments I received was that no parent was particularly happy with the whole 'pre-party' thing but there was great pressure from their teens to either attend them or host them ...

The most interesting response I received however was from Naomi Oakley, a name that would be familiar to many who live in Melbourne. Naomi is the Managing Director of U Nome Security, a private security firm that specialises in looking after underage…

'Designated Paul Dillons': The ultimate compliment from a teenager!

If I ever wondered whether the young people I talk to are listening and actually use the information I present, an email I recently received from a young woman clearly shows that some certainly are. What she shared with me about a strategy that she and her friends (now at university) use to keep safe when they party I believe is the ultimate compliment from a teenager.

Here is an edited version of her email (which I did ask her permission to use):

My friends and I first heard you speak at our school in Adelaide in 2009 when we were in Year 10. Our whole year level loved your talk and over the next couple of years your presentations became the highlight of our year - we would all look so forward to hearing what you were going to say next. We weren't really party girls when we saw you in Year 10 but by Year 11 we were going out almost every weekend and it was then that we created what we called the 'Designated Paul Dillon'. This was the person who's job it was for the nig…

Preloading at pre-parties: What are some parents thinking?

Sometimes I write these blog entries and I just feel really old! When I talk to young people in schools about the parties they go to, I sometimes wonder whether I just had a very sheltered up-bringing and it's me that's a bit strange! I then talk to parents and it becomes clear to me that parenting around teenage parties and gatherings has indeed changed dramatically over the past 20 years. Although there has always been teenage drinking at parties, very rarely, if ever, was it supported by parents. If teens did drink, they had to access the alcohol themselves and then find somewhere to drink it, preferably where their parents wouldn't find out about it. That has certainly changed and some of the parental behaviour that we are seeing today around the provision of alcohol is just plain bizarre!

One of the most strangest practices is the whole 'pre-party' phenomenon. Now before anyone says that this is not new and that teens went to friend's house before a party …