Showing posts from August, 2013

Parents who just can't say "no"

My sister-in-law attended one of my presentations a few years ago and when we met up afterwards her first comment to me was "it's so easy for you to say all that, you don't have children!" That is perfectly true (and to be quite honest sometimes I'm extremely glad I don't!) but I think not having children actually enables me to look at the research that exists in this area and provide what we do know about effective parenting reasonably objectively. Regardless of that, it was after that night that I always make sure I tell audiences at my Parent Information Evenings that I do not have teenagers of my own, just to make it absolutely clear! One of the more disturbing trends I am seeing across the country is the growing number of parents that just don't want, or know how, to say "no" to their child. Really there are four words that a parent should say to their child as often as possible - the first three are "I love you" and the fourth i

Lining your stomach before drinking alcohol: Does it work?

As part of my school presentations I provide students with a couple of simple tips that they should always consider should they ever choose to drink alcohol in the future. The first is to ensure that you have a glass of water as your first drink and the second is to eat a fistful of food around an hour or so before you start drinking. These tips do not totally protect young people from the effects of alcohol but they certainly help them to prepare their bodies for the drinking experience ahead! What always surprises me is that when I do a follow-up session with the students the next year and ask them what they remember, they often have problems with the water message (usually quoting the 'have a glass of water in between drinks' message, which is correct, but much more difficult to actually do in practice), however, the 'fistful of food' is never forgotten. There's something about the visual of a clenched fist that the young people really relate to and usually take

Why wouldn't a parent hosting a party want to call an ambulance?

As I've said a number of times before I am extremely fortunate to often receive wonderful emails from young people thanking me for the sessions I provide in schools. Sometimes these include stories about experiences they have had where they have had to use the information I give in my talks to help their friends and others, particularly in a party setting. This week I received one such email: I just wanted to say thank you for all you have taught me and my class mates over the past three years as recently this information has been useful to me. Last weekend one of my good friends was at a party with me and he decided to drink around 3 quarters of a bottle of vodka, eventually around the end of the night I was called over to come and look after him as he had thrown up, we put him in a chair but after a while my friend and I both started to notice that he was foaming at the mouth and he was not responding to our attempts to keep him conscious. We had tried to reach his mothe

Alcohol-related violence and young people

This evening I had the great pleasure of sharing a stage with two amazingly brave people. Ralph and Kathy Kelly are a couple who have found themselves in a position that no parent should ever have to experience - they lost their 18 year-old son, Thomas, due a senseless act of alcohol-related violence. Thomas Kelly was walking through Sydney's King Cross on a night out with his girlfriend on July 7 2012 when he was king hit in an unprovoked and cowardly attack. Since that evening, the couple have displayed great strength and dignity and found themselves trying to grapple with why their first born son, known affectionately as TK, was taken from them in such an horrific way. Hearing Kathy describe the night her son was killed was heartbreaking and she did so in such an honest and frank way it was extremely difficult to imagine there wasn't one person in the audience who didn't want to reach out and let her know how much they felt for her. Once she had finished telling her st

Have you discussed calling 000 with your child?

Ensuring that young people feel comfortable calling for an ambulance should something go wrong when they are partying has always been a crucial part of any presentation I deliver at schools. Unfortunately, this message has never been more important due to a recent number of what are believed to be NBOMe-related deaths. Four young men across three states have died after taking what they believed was LSD. In addition to the deaths, significant numbers of young people have been admitted to emergency departments across the country after using LSD, as well as police reports of parties or gatherings that they have had to attend where adolescents have exhibited bizarre behaviour believed to be linked to the use of NBOMe products. Calling an ambulance can be confronting for anyone, but when it is a young person calling for a friend who has possibly taken an illegal drug it can be a terrifying experience. It never ceases to amaze me that any teen can make that call. The tragedy is that some d

'Risk', 'risky drinking' and young people: What does it all mean?

I was recently contacted by a journalist who is writing an article on alcohol and its related harms. I've been assisting her with the piece for a couple of weeks now and the last email contact was regarding terminology, particularly around the word 'risk' - what does that actually mean? The messages we provide to the community around alcohol are based on guidelines developed by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) - "an independent statutory authority that has the job of bringing together the best information available from worldwide medical research to advise Australians about their health choices". New guidelines were developed in 2009 and are about "reducing the risks to your health from drinking alcohol". The previous alcohol guidelines were written in 2001 and classified particular drinking behaviour as either 'risky' or 'high risk'. It needs to be made clear that the new guidelines do not use these terms f