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Showing posts from 2016

Holidays, teenage parties and music festivals: Simple things parents can do to keep their child as safe as possible

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None of what I'm going to talk about today is new - I've raised almost all of these issues many times before - but leading into the holidays it is important for parents to remember that this is a dangerous time. Every year we lose a number of our young people around the Christmas/New Year break due to alcohol and other drugs and almost all of them are completely preventable. We see a spike in alcohol-related drownings and alcohol poisonings, young people dying in car crashes where alcohol is involved increases and, of course, there is the inevitable rise in drug overdoses and, in some cases, deaths, increasingly linked to the use of ecstasy and other illicits at music festivals. It's hard to forget that we had six ecstasy-related deaths at music festivals over last year's holiday period ...

Our teens have just finished the school year and are keen to party, the weather is perfect and there is an expectation in this country that whatever we do, we need to do it in a bi…

Ensuring your child knows how to call an ambulance and that they have your support should they need to call: Not just a school's responsibility

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If you've ever had to call 000, for whatever reason, I'm sure, like me, you found it quite a traumatic experience. You're not only trying to deal with an emergency situation, you also find yourself talking to an insanely calm voice on the other end of the line that keeps asking you questions when all you really want is the police, an ambulance or the fire brigade to show up as fast as humanly possible ... Don't get me wrong - emergency operators are amazing people who have to deal with life threatening situations every minute of every day, talking people through incredibly tough times, but boy it's not easy being the one who makes the call!

That is why I am constantly amazed at how many young people (and sometimes very young children) manage to do it so effectively. I believe one of the most important conversations any parent can have with their child (from a very early age and then regularly when they are in their teens) is ensuring that they know how to call an a…

Who do teens believe is the 'weakest link'? Which of their parents is more likely to say 'yes'?

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At my parent sessions, when I talk about how easily teens are able to identify the 'weakest link', as far parenting is concerned, there are usually one of two responses from the couples in the room. Either one of them turns and stares accusingly, whilst the other tries as hard as they can to keep looking forward hoping it will all end quickly, or you simply see a room full of grown men and women swinging around to each other pointing fingers furiously! Not surprisingly, most parents are well aware who the 'weakest link' is in their family, i.e., the one that their child is more likely to go to in an attempt to get what they want, particularly in relation to alcohol and parties ... but what do young people think about this phenomenon and how are they most likely to use it to their advantage?

Once again, I'm going to be using the results of the questionnaire that I conducted through the year to look at this fascinating area. Of the more than 500 Year 10s and 11s wh…

Can I? Can I? Can I? When do teens believe the best time is to try to wear you down and get the answer they want?

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As I wrote about in a recent post, I have been collecting information throughout the year on a range of issues around parties and gatherings and alcohol from young people via a short questionnaire I ask them to fill out after the talks I present at schools. I now have over 500 completed surveys from Year 10 and 11 students across all three systems - public, Independent and Catholic - and over the next couple of months leading up to the Christmas holidays I thought I would share some of the results with readers of my blog - some of them are really fascinating ...

It needs to be made clear that this is not a rigorous piece of scientific research and I can't submit any of my 'findings' to a journal for publication, but the results provide a rough snapshot of what is happening across the country in this area. As much as I wanted to know about their drinking behaviour, that can be a dangerous area to get into (particularly around 'duty of care') so I tried to focus more…

One of those teen parties where everything goes right: One Mum's story she was desperate to share

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I'm getting a little tired of talking about teenage parties and gatherings where things go wrong and I end up criticising parental behaviour that not only adversely affects their own child but other peoples' children as well. There are so many parties put on every weekend that go well - no dramas, no problems - just a bunch of wonderful young people getting together and having a great time and it's about time that I did my bit to acknowledge and celebrate these events.

I received an email from a Mum named Carol a few weeks ago who desperately wanted to share her experience with organising and hosting a teen party for her daughter's 15th birthday, not because it all went horribly wrong but because it went so well! It's taken a couple of weeks to get this written as we've spoken on the phone a couple of times since I received her message in an effort to try to pin down a couple of key things that she thinks led to the success. Here is Carol's original email…

Mixed sleepovers: What are parents thinking?

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I'm not sure whether it's just the end of the year and I'm starting to get tired but I seem to be doing a fair bit of 'parent-bashing' at the moment ... I hope that regular readers of my blogs know that I think most of you guys are amazing! It's not easy being a parent - there are lots of challenges and, as I always say, there is no 'rule book' and so there's lots of 'trial and error' involved with the whole process. That said, over the past couple of months I have heard about some examples of parental behaviour, particularly around parties and gatherings, that just makes things so much more difficult for all you guys who are trying to do the right thing  ... case in point - mixed sleepovers!

In the past month I have been approached by parents at two different schools who have recently struggled with their teens over this issue and have no idea how to progress with the problem. Interestingly, both parents asked me to be extremely careful ho…

Picking your teen up from a party by text: What position does that put the parents hosting the event in?

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A few weeks ago I wrote about a very dear friend of mine who had contacted me about a party she had hosted for her 15 year-old daughter and her absolute shock that not one parent had contacted her beforehand to find out anything about the event. Adding insult to injury, she couldn't believe that the girls attending were simply dropped off at the end of the driveway (no-one bothered to walk their daughter to the house and introduce themselves to her and her partner) and then picked up by text when the party finished. That blog entry got a huge reaction, with many readers writing to me that they had had a similar experience, totally gobsmacked that so many parents appeared to have absolutely no interest in who would be looking after their child on a Saturday night, where they would be going and what they were actually planning to do with them when they got there!

One part of the story really resonated with another friend of mine and he got in contact with me and asked me to share h…

Want to have a good conversation with your teen? Talk to them at night, very late!

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"Every conversation I have with my 15 year-old at the moment ends in a fight! Apparently I don't understand anything about the world, my rules are completely different to every other parent's and, as I'm usually told as the door slams, I just want to ruin her life!"

As tempting as it must be sometimes to just turn and walk away and think this is just all too hard when this kind of thing happens, it is incredibly important that parents continue to try and work hard to maintain a dialogue with their son or daughter during the teen years. I've just pulled this quote out of one of many emails I've had over the years  - I can't tell you how many times I've been told by mums and dads that their wonderful, communicative and co-operative teen went up to bed one night and was somehow replaced by aliens with a 'pod person' - an adolescent that they now simply don't recognize! If their child did actually decide to converse it was usually to argue…

A mother's concern about alcohol, football and 'Mad Monday'

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Alcohol and sport are bound together tightly in this country and, to be honest, it doesn't look like it's going to change anytime soon. I remember going to a conference many years ago and hearing from an expert in the area that it took 25 years from the day Bob Hawke announced that tobacco sponsorship of sport would end to the day it finally did, but if a Prime Minister did the same thing around alcohol today, it could take close to 40 years to disentangle the two! Pretty amazing stuff but not really surprising ...

Participation in sport is regarded as a protective factor for young people when it comes to alcohol and other drugs. It's a healthy activity, keeps them busy and 'off the streets', as well as offering them a sense of 'connectedness', particularly when it comes to team sports. It is also a way of parents maintaining a positive relationship with their child - e.g., driving them to training and to the actual sporting events, showing an interest in wh…

Identifying appropriate consequences when your teen breaks rules: 3 simple rules to remember

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One of my major messages to parents this year has been the importance of understanding why young people do the things they do during adolescence. You can sit with your teen, carefully explaining your rules and boundaries and tell them what will happen should those rules be broken and they may still walk away and, within minutes, do the 'wrong thing'. It is at this point that you may start to question your parenting and also the intelligence of your teen ...

Put simply, teens make 'dumb choices' because of their developing brain. The adolescent brain is far less developed than we once thought, with male brains developing much later than females (no surprise there!). When we make decisions as an adult, we rely on parts of the brain that are amongst the last to fully develop, i.e., the prefrontal cortex, hippocampus and promotor cortex. These sections deal with reasoned thinking and judgment, as well as learning and memory (remembering past experiences) and a range of ot…

"We trusted our teen and we were terribly let down": One Mum's story ...

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The evidence is pretty clear that if you want to do your very best to keep your child safe through the teen years there is a simple parenting formula to follow:
know where your child isknow who they're with, andknow when they'll be home This involves a lot of work. It takes time and energy to check up on what your teen has told you, calling other parents to find out whether they're going where they say they're going and making sure they do what they say they're going to ... but if that's what it takes to ensure your child comes home in one piece, I'm pretty sure most would agree it's worth the effort! As I say in my parent sessions, sometimes when I end my talks with these three simple tips I can see some people in the audience who look like I have just stabbed them in the heart. When I have approached them afterwards and asked them what the problem was (because there was so a problem!), they turn around and say "But if I did those things and check…