It’s that time of year again, when year 12 school leavers head off to various locations for the annual ‘schoolies’ celebrations.
For young people who participate in schoolies, it is an important time in their life and acknowledges the end of their schooling and a rite of passage into adulthood.
If you are a parent it may be a worrying time, especially if it is the first time your child will be without direct adult supervision for an extended period.
The Australian Drug Foundation suggests you can help your teenager enjoy schoolies while reducing the risk of problems with a 3-tier strategy:
1. Be informed
2. Be the model
3. Be the voice
To help your teenager enjoy the celebrations and reduce the risk of trouble, you need to know where your children are staying, who they are going with, and their plans for activities. It can also help to speak to their friends and find out their plans.
Access to alcohol is a given for young people at schoolies events, but research has found that alcohol can interfere with the development of the brain (which continues until the mid-20s). Practical advice for those attending is to drink as little as possible, never get drunk, and encourage their friends to do the same.
It’s essential for young people to understand alcohol laws. In most states and territories anyone who supplies a minor with alcohol is breaking the law unless they are the child’s parent or guardian, or have their approval, and act in a responsible manner.
Read a fact sheet about supplying alcohol to minors.
Be the model
How you behave and handle situations is a powerful guide for your children. An important strategy is to plan to handle adverse events: ask your children to come up with Plan B and Plan C in the event of a problem. Teenagers will suggest they can call for help on a mobile phone, but what if they lose the phone, or the battery is low? What can they do if someone is hassling them to have a drink, take a ride in a car, or leave their friends?
Be the voice
Research indicates young people drink less when they know their parents prefer them not drinking. If possible, chat to the parents of your teenager’s friends, and try to agree on common expectations. A united front by all parents is useful.
Above all, make sure your teenager knows they can contact you at any time if things go wrong.
Schoolies week is a time of release and celebration for graduating Year 12 students in Australia. It can be a liberating but also a risky time, particularly in the context of exposure to alcohol and other drugs. Preparation and planning by students and their families can help them enjoy it rather than regret it.
Head of Policy
Australian Drug Foundation