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Showing posts from 2018

Vodka, vodka, vodka: Why is it so popular amongst teens and why is it so problematic?

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Not surprisingly, the death earlier this week of a 15-year-old Sydney girl from apparent alcohol poisoning attracted a great deal of media attention across the country. According to media reports she had been drinking alone and returned a blood alcohol reading of 0.4 with NSW Police stating that the girl "sourced an alcoholic drink recipe from an online site, then put the information to the test." 

Although there has been a great deal of speculation about what actually happened, the police have made it clear that "the investigation is in its infancy" and we really won't know exactly what went down until the post mortem examination takes place sometime this week. A relative was quoted as saying that the young woman had consumed a bottle of vodka and early reports spoke about police seizing energy drinks, with lollies added to the apparent list of things that could possibly have been used in later stories. 

Until we know what actually happened I think we have to be…

Looking after a drunk person: How can we ensure the person providing the care is safe?

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At some point during their teens most young people, regardless of whether they drink themselves or not, will have to look after a drunk friend, family member or someone they have come across at a party or gathering. It is therefore incredibly important to make sure we arm them with good quality information about alcohol and its effects, as well as providing them with practical strategies that will enable them to do this effectively. Making sure the drunk person is safe - i.e., that they don't lose consciousness or choke on their own vomit - is incredibly important but it is also just important to make sure that the person providing the care is also safe.
Looking after a drunk person, whether they are a friend or not, is potentially risky. Drunk people can be unpredictable and, of course, aggressive behaviour is a very real risk. So many things can go wrong and over the years I have seen some shocking injuries inflicted by drunk people on friends. Some of these include the followi…

When should you start the conversation about alcohol with your child?

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In the last couple of weeks I've been asked a number of times when I believe is the best time to start the conversation about alcohol with your child. I'm often asked this question and I've written about this before but thought it may be a good idea to update a blog I wrote a couple of years ago that discussed this important issue …

A US report published in 2015 aimed at preventing binge drinking in young people recommended that parents should start talking to their children about alcohol at age 9. Co-author of the report, Dr Lorena Siqueira was reported as saying that the reason to start the conversation this early was that "kids are starting to develop impressions (about alcohol) as early as 9 years." She went on to say that for prevention to actually work, or at least have some effect, it's better for parents to influence ideas about alcohol early, rather than trying to change their impressions later, from positive to negative.

I've written many times…

Parenting a teenager:"It's all about sacrifice!"

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I'm constantly writing about the bizarre parenting, particularly around alcohol and partying, I see or hear about as I'm travelling across the country and I have been occasionally criticised for what some see as 'parent bashing'. I'm not a parent (as my wonderful sister-in-law has told me after hearing me present at an Information Evening a few years ago) and I absolutely get it, it's so easy for me to criticise what parents do or don't do in this area when I don't have to deal with the issue myself. That said, I always try to make it clear in anything I write (or say for that matter) that I believe parenting is the toughest job in the world - there is no 'rule book'.

Every family is different and within each family, every child is going to have their own personality and potentially their own issues. You'll be different each time as well. Raising a child, with all the fears and anxiety that comes with first-time parenthood (combined with a…

What questions do you need answered to make an 'informed decision' about whether your child should go to a party or gathering?

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I've discussed this issue so many times, stressing the importance of finding out as much as you can about an event your child gets invited to but I continue to meet parents who really struggle in this area. Some parents are convinced by their child that no-one else makes a phone call and that if they did they would 'shame them forever', while others blindly trust their teen and simply accept the information their children provide. Others come up with other excuses that I find particularly bizarre ... During the week I met a father who felt that doing too much checking about what was going to go down at a teen party was not only "insulting" to the host parents but was also "limiting the development of independence" of his 14-year-old daughter! I understand that getting information about a party or gathering is not easy and trying to obtain it certainly won't make you popular but it is important and if you get this process right nice and early, when …

Is it legal to throw drunk 15-year-olds out of a party you are hosting? Do you have a 'duty of care' - a legal responsibility to look after them?

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One of the questions I get asked the most by parents is around 'duty of care', usually in regard to holding a teenage party or gathering. The questions range from "Am I responsible if a teen gets drunk at a party at my home, even if I do my best to prevent alcohol from getting into the event?" through to "What if a drunk teen turns up at a party I am hosting and I refuse to let them in, am I responsible if something happens to them outside my home?". I have had so many of these type of queries over the years but have always found it extremely difficult to try to find concrete answers for those parents struggling to work out where they actually stand in this very grey area. Based on the information that is available, I have usually said that host parents do, at least to some degree, have a legal duty of care to make sure that everyone at the party is safe. But does the law actually say that?

If you do a quick search of the web, 'duty of care' is usu…

'Sleepovers': Are they always as 'innocent' as they sound?

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Just over four years ago I was contacted by a mother who couldn't wait to tell me her story about a 'sleepover' she had recently held for her daughter's 14th birthday. I wrote an article about her experience and shared it. Last week she contacted me again, this time to tell me about her now 18-year-old daughter and what went down at the event celebrating that birthday… We're in the process of putting together a piece about that but after reading what I wrote when I first heard from her, I thought it may be a good idea to update it and share it again …

Jane is the mother of three girls, the eldest of which just turned 14. To celebrate her daughter's recent birthday, she agreed to hold a small gathering with a few of her friends being invited. After some discussion about what she wanted (and what Jane was willing to do!)  four friends were invited for a 'sleepover' on a Saturday night. The girls would stay the night and Jane would provide food, some games…

What do teens really think about parents and their parenting? What advice would they give them about appropriate rules and boundaries?

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Every parent is going to 'parent' their child in a different way and, if there's one certainty in this area, it is most probably that if you try and parent all your children in the same way it's most probably not going to work particularly well. Parenting theories come and go and what was promoted heavily as the 'way to go' a decade ago may not be regarded in the same way today ...

But what do teens think about their parents' parenting practices? When a young person approaches me and discusses the issues they may be having with their Mum or Dad around alcohol and parties, usually complaining about the rules and boundaries that are being imposed, I always ask them why they think their parents are doing what they're doing ... The answer is nearly always the same - "They're trying to ruin my life!" Now, as I always say in response, I'm sure that is not true, but at that point in their life that is exactly how they are feeling. A whole pi…

'Vaping': What is it and is it 'safer' than smoking for our teens?

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Recently I have received a number of messages from parents wanting to know more about 'vaping'. Each of them had recently found a device in their child's room and had little, or no idea, what it actually was, how it was used and whether it was harmful or not. Here is an edited version of one of the requests for information:

"Last weekend I found a strange-looking device in our son's room. When I asked him what it was he said it was a 'vape'. It looked like a long cigarette and when we asked him why he had it he told us that it was a 'bit of fun' and he and his mates occasionally used it when they got together. He insisted he only used it to do tricks and that these vapes were harmless. We confiscated it anyway and told him we wouldn't allow it in the house. Since then we found out that one of his friends is smoking cigarettes. Our son played it down and said his mate is actually using the device to try to give up smoking. Just last night I foun…

If you give your teen two drinks to take to a party, is that all they're likely to drink? A group of 16-year-olds tell it from their perspective ...

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Last week I got into a fairly heated discussion with some Year 11 students at a school I was visiting about a blog entry I had written about parents providing alcohol to teens to take to a party. Apparently when one of them had asked their parents to give them a couple of bottles to take to a friend's gathering (as they had a number of times before), they were told they were not going to be given any alcohol. They were then shown what I had written and told something along the lines of "Paul Dillon said ..." Now, as I've said many times before, I don't believe anyone can tell a parent what to do with their child in this area - you've got to make the decision for yourself. But when you've made that decision, whatever it is, own it! Firstly, to change your rules (i.e., provide alcohol for parties and then stop doing so for no real reason - this young man had not done anything wrong) is unfair and will undoubtedly lead to conflict. But most importantly, fro…

Why do parents lie to other parents? How can you keep your teen safe when those you trust to look after them don't always tell the truth?

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You would expect that when you contact a parent hosting a party and ask specific questions about what will and won't be happening at that event that you would get an honest answer. As I am often told, this just simply isn't always the case!

I've talked about this issue a number of times before but since the beginning of the year I have heard from a number of Mums and Dads who allowed their teen to go to a party based on information they received from the host parents, only to find out later that what they had been told was completely untrue. Now, it is important to acknowledge that as far as alcohol is concerned, if young people want to get it into a party they are usually going to find a way, no matter what parents try to do. So if you have been told that the hosts are going to not allow alcohol at an event and then find out that one or more of the invitees has got drunk, it's important to remember that parents can only do their best ... That said, if you have been t…