My daughter is going to Schoolies Week. I’m really worried about excess drinking, drugs and unsafe sex. How can I help her keep safe and how do I even talk to her about all of this !!!!
If your daughter is going to schoolies week look at it as an opportunity – most probably the last opportunity that you’re ever going to have (if they’re not already 18, they’re not too far away from being legally an adult) – to ask how she is planning to look after herself and her friends. Warning them about the dangers of schoolies is most probably not going to do a whole pile of good, so try tackling the issue from a different angle.
Choose a good time to sit down and let her know just how you are going to be feeling for the entire week she will be away. Every time the phone rings your heart will jump and you will be terrified that something has happened to her. At this point she will most probably complain that you’re worried about nothing and she will be fine. That is when you hit her with the question: “Tell me why I shouldn’t worry? What things have you and your friends put into place to keep each other safe?” This is the safety discussion, but not you dictating to your daughter what she should or shouldn’t do. Rather, it’s her proving to you that she is able to ease at least some of your fears by outlining her plans for her big week ahead.
Paul Dillon, Drug and Alcohol Research and Training Australia (DARTA), www.darta.net.au
If you are asking this question, chances are you have laid a solid foundation of common sense prior to waving goodbye to your daughter for schoolies. There’s a good chance you’ve had conversations along the way that have help embed a sense of responsibility. However, here are five ‘must have’ conversations before you send her on her way.
1. Be aware that alcohol and drugs can drastically change a situation. This message is for both you and your friends, and relates to all your decisions – the more you drink or if you take any drugs, the harder it is to make a smart choice. When it comes to sexual behaviour, it’s probably best to make a blanket policy to have your wits about you, rather than leave things to chance and wake up with a hazy regretful feeling that perhaps you did something you would prefer you hadn’t.
2. Stick with friends who can look out for you. You’re at schoolies to celebrate but the best kind of fun is when you know that friends are looking out for each other. If you’re hanging out with guys, have fun – but remember that it’s even more important to stick together.
3. If you want to hang out with a ‘special someone’ alone, remember that you deserve and should expect safety, respect and enjoyment at all times. Be aware of ‘internal warning signs’ such as feelings of unease, butterflies and sweaty palms, and be prepared to exit the situation. If you really feel as though you want to take things a step further, there’s no shame in being prepared with condoms. It’s far better to have protection and not need it, than wish you had some and engage in unsafe oral or other sexual activities.
4. Download an app such as Circle of 6 – two touches lets your circle of friends or safe adults know where you are and how they can help, assisting to prevent sexual violence before it happens.
5. There’s no shame in seeking help. ‘Red Frog’ reps, water stations and support people are everywhere. If you’ve been sexually abused or feel violated, seek help straight away. If you or your friends have taken drugs and react to something, you won’t be in trouble for asking for assistance.
I know these conversations may be awkward, but it’s important parents take a deep breath and remember that it’s about keeping your teen as physically and emotionally safe as possible by giving her or him strategies to deal with the unexpected. In my work as a sex educator, I’ve learned that young people want to hear what parents have to say about sex and partying, and appreciate common sense advice. Parents who don’t have these conversations are at risk of letting their teens go into situations they simply aren’t prepared to know how to handle.
Liz Walker, Youth Wellbeing Project, www.youthwellbeingproject.com.au
Our Ask an Expert Week panelists are all qualified professionals in their field. However, advice given on The Kids Are All Right website is not a substitute for direct, personal, professional counselling or psychological care, medical care and diagnosis.
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