Exams might be over for Australian Year 12s but many of their parents now face a different test – preparing themselves and their teens for Schoolies week.
Experts at Australian parenting website raisingchildren.net.au say opening the lines of communication – and keeping them open – is an important way to connect with your teenager during the party season.
"It's normal and understandable to have mixed feelings about your teenage child going away to Schoolies without adult supervision and to be concerned about their safety and wellbeing – but it is possible to find a balance between giving them independence and keeping them safe," said raisingchildren.net.au Executive Director Associate Professor Julie Green.
"An important place to start is to have a clear understanding of what you – and your child's – expectations are, where they differ and where there might be room for compromise. It's important to negotiate clear boundaries from the start. For example, how often will you agree to keep in touch?"
It's also a good idea to make sure your child knows that if there is an emergency they can call you for help any time of the day or night. But it's also helpful to talk through potential risky situations with your child and how they might handle them. For example:
• What if there's a fight involving a friend?
• What if you get stranded and can't contact your friends?
• What if the party you're at is crashed by older people who aren't part of schoolies groups?
While most young people come back from Schoolies happy and ready to start a new phase in their lives, the celebration can see some teens take part in risky behaviours such as binge drinking.
"Schoolies celebrations get a lot of bad press and parent concern is understandable, but it's also true that looking for new experiences and wanting to be with their peers is normal for teenagers," Associate Professor Green said. "Sometimes this involves thrill-seeking or even risky behaviour. But with plenty of communication and planning, schoolies can achieve a balance between fun and safety."
Other practical tips for parents and teens to discuss include:
• Ensuring your teen registers as a school-leaver with a schoolies' organisation or local council
• The importance of always staying with friends and looking out for each other
• Ensuring you have their accommodation details and the phone details of their friends
• Preventing drink spiking by not letting drinks out of your sight
• Understanding that alcohol and substance use don't mix with swimming, heights and arguments
• The need for your teen to have a phone with them at all times.
Visit raisingchildren.net.au for more teen tips including problem solving with teens and negotiating with teens.