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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

Partying in parks, bushland and on beaches: Why are some teens moving back outside and how can you keep them safer?

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Drinking in parks, bushland and on beaches is nothing new. Teens have been doing it for generations. Finding a place to experiment with alcohol, away from the watchful eyes of parents, has always set challenges for adolescents but 'where there's a will there's a way'.  For many parents of today their first alcohol experience was likely to have involved a group of friends in a local park on a Saturday night. Although some may remember the thrill of being part of this 'adult experience' for the first time, most do not necessarily have fond memories of the evening. The setting was not the best and was likely to have been dark and uncomfortable, there was the constant fear of getting caught and what was being consumed was usually something cheap and nasty. The memory of this first experience could be one of the major reasons that some parents make the decision to provide alcohol to their teen to take to a party. They remember the very real dangers they faced that ni

Vodka: Why has it become the drink of choice for many teens and why should parents be concerned?

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Regular readers of my blog would know that I have been involved in a number of alcohol-related deaths over the years. Sadly, most of these are usually are young women around the age of 15 and almost all of them have involved vodka. Very few of these deaths received any media attention, with the parents involved understandably reluctant to come forward and speak about their loss.  Unfortunately, many parents are totally unaware of the popularity of vodka amongst teens until they host a party themselves and start the big 'clean-up' the next morning, only to find empty bottles of the stuff littering their garden or hidden in various nooks and crannies around the place. So many Mums and Dads have told me that they didn't really grasp the extent of vodka consumption amongst young people until their son's or daughter's 18th birthday when suddenly the partygoers' drinking behaviour was out in the open, i.e., they were legally able to drink. But realistically, it is as