In the lead-up to Schoolies celebrations, parents should sit down and discuss drugs and alcohol with their teenage children, including the responsible use of alcohol to reduce the chance of excessive binge drinking and accidents.
“Drinking alcohol is a big part of Australian culture so telling them not to drink alcohol is short-sighted and unrealistic,” says the Associate Dean (Research) from Flinders School of Nursing and Midwifery, pointing to Flinders research that shows the majority of teenagers will ignore safe alcohol public health messages.
“But parents should also be confident to talk to their children about the risks associated with consuming alcohol and drugs, and let their children know they are willing to ‘be there’ and listen when they need advice or have concerns.”
In return, young people usually appreciate guidance from their role models – parents, teachers, sport coaches and other responsible adults – and can then make some healthy choices based on sound advice.
“Parents who have a good relationship with their children can actually have more concerns about the risks associated with other people drinking or taking drugs, and how that might affect their child,” says Associate Professor Hutton.
“These include aggressive behaviours such as king-hits, drink spiking, falling from heights such as balconies, or drowning.
“So giving your children responsible guidelines will help them to prepare for all contingencies.
“Even when they’re out there having fun, they need to remember their own safety and that of their friends.”
Thousands of students around the country will celebrate the completion of high school in coming weeks, including the main South Australian Schoolies Festival at Victor Harbor on 20-22 November, Queensland Schoolies Week on 21-28 November, followed by the WA and Victorian events.
More coordinated and well-managed public and community support systems are creating safer environments for the annual end-of-exams celebrations, including free public transport, beach patrols, and supervision of caravan parks, and party areas.
Precautions should also be taken by Schoolies staying in private accommodation, says Associate Professor Hutton, who is part of the Torrens Resilience Institute at Flinders University and is the current president of the Association for the Welfare of Children in Health Care.