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Staying Safe at Schoolies

With Year 12 exams now complete, many kids will be heading off to Dunsborough, Rotto or points in-between to let their hair down and celebrate finishing school. While a great time with their mates is the goal, it can be a worrying time for parents if their teenagers haven’t been away from home before and are likely to make decisions about alcohol, drugs and partying that could have long term consequences.

Hopefully you can trust your kids to make good decisions at the time or you’ve already had this conversation with them, but just in case you haven’t here’s my suggestions for practical things that might be worth covering off on.

TIP 1: So much of it is about alcohol…

If your child intends to drink (and let’s face it, the majority of them will try) then it’s about knowing the limits and the safe ways to do it. Firstly make sure they understand that most accommodation will not allow alcohol to be taken on the premises during schoolies and if found, could result in an early departure, minus the refunds!  If you children plan on celebrating with a drink or two, make sure they drink lots of water and eat well, as dehydration will make them crash early and hard. Alcohol makes you less aware of risk, so make sure they have friends going who can be relied on to look out for each other. Drink spiking really can happen at schoolies, so make sure they know to never leave drinks unattended.

TIP 2: Toolies are real…

Sad but true, there are people out there who prey on school leavers. Drum into them to stay with their friends, never go anywhere with someone they don’t know, and be very selective about who they let into their room. Stay in well-lit areas at night and never walk back from a party by themselves when they've had enough! Of course all these decisions are usually affected by how much alcohol they’ve consumed, so see Tip 1 above.

TIP 3: Make sure they look after themselves and their mates…

Partying non-stop might be the aim but it will take its toll. Make some ready-made meals to take with them so you know they’ll eat. Give them a case of bottled water or two. If they’re living in shared accommodation with their friends, make sure they know about boundaries and space so they come back still on talking terms.  If they’re likely to be out in the sun (which of course they are) then sun and swim safety is a must – hats, sunscreen, between the flags, - should all be things they know anyway but can’t hurt to remind them.

TIP 4: Drugs are a really bad idea…

I know that ‘just don’t’ is a message that often doesn’t cut through with kids, and we often focus on harm minimisation instead, but draw a line in the sand on this one. Drugs supplied at schoolies, particularly pills, could be absolutely anything. There’s no way to tell what affect they will have and no safe place to be taking them if they have a bad reaction. Mixing drugs with the other drugs probably on offer, including alcohol, will make the effect much, much worse. Might be worth reminding them that drugs are still illegal and police are everywhere at known schoolies venues, so chances are they’ll get caught and have to deal with that too.

TIP 5: Have a great time but be true to yourself…

They’re about to become adults –  so they need to act like one even when partying. Remind your kids that they have a mind of their own, that doing what everyone else does is just plain dumb if it makes them uncomfortable or they’re going to regret it later. Make sure they have thought about their boundaries now, before they’ve drunk anything, so they hopefully remember later when it’s important. Life’s just opening up, so impress on them not to do anything stupid that they normally wouldn’t just because it’s schoolies. And remind them that police are actually nice people, that they're there to help, and not to be afraid to approach them if they have any issues.

Most importantly...

I’d suggest telling your kids you trust them and that you want this experience to be one of the best memories of their lives, not something they will shudder to look back on. Maybe couching the conversation in terms of maximising their fun can get you some traction.

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