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Raising safer schoolies: Advice for parents

Forty years ago the first ‘Schoolies’ celebrations began on the Gold Coast.

What started as the brain-child of a Broadbeach pub owner has erupted in to a country-wide tradition, to the dismay of many anxious parents.

From next week, teenagers will descend on schoolies hot-spots including Byron Bay, Surfers Paradise and Phillip Island. The school-leavers will celebrate the completion of schooling and starting the transition to adulthood.

Unsurprisingly, many parents feel nervous as their children head to ‘Schoolies’ celebrations. ‘Schoolies’ typically have access to alcohol and other drugs and incidents of sexual assault and violence have not helped the ‘Schoolies’ reputation. Recent reports of illicit drugs like NBOMe in popular ‘Schoolies’ destinations will add to the concern.

While ‘Schoolies’ is a testing time for parents, it’s also an opportunity for young people to experience the realities of adulthood. For many, it will be their first time living unsupervised.

If your child attends a ‘Schoolies’ event, they have the chance to develop crucial independent living and social skills. When communicating with your child about ‘Schoolies’, you might present it as a great occasion for them to prove their maturity.

Parents with teenagers on the verge of their ‘Schoolies’ rite of passage can reduce the risk of their child coming to harm:

  • Have ‘the other talk’ with your child, making sure that they understand the harms associated with alcohol and drug use.
  • Do a quick Google of your child’s ‘Schoolies’ destination with them, identifying the volunteer and emergency services available if they get in to trouble.
  • Work with your child to develop a trip itinerary, including all accommodation and travel information.
  • Agree on a reasonable contact schedule with your child, remembering to emphasise that you’re reachable at any time.
  • Set clear and consistent rules and consequences for any bad behaviour.

Further advice for young people attending celebrations is found in these safe-partying tips for ‘Schoolies’, which include:

  • Keep busy and seek out activities where alcohol isn’t the main focus. By having a plan and budget for the week, the ‘Schoolies’ experience is bound to be more fun and less stressful.
  • Avoid excessive drinking. Eating and drinking water will help to prevent intoxication and all the risks that go with it.
  • Understanding that illicit drugs are risky because you can’t be sure what they contain.
  • Look after your friends by avoiding risky situations. Never pressure anyone to do anything that they’re not comfortable with.
  • Know how to react if you do get in trouble. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and call triple zero if you or your friends are in serious trouble.

‘Schoolies’ is an opportunity for school-leavers to celebrate their hard work and friendships.

Parents of ‘schoolies’ can help their adolescents to have a safe end-of-year adventure and one to remember for the best reasons.

Written by Ilona Mulvey