From Director of Student Wellbeing, Matthew Porter
Celebrating Schoolies Safely
For our Year 12 boys nearing the end of their HSC, the long hot summer ahead should be one of the happiest and most exciting times of their young lives. Schoolies is a perfect opportunity to explore their new found freedom, assert their independence and celebrate the end of thirteen years of education with their mates. “What happens at Schoolies stays at Schoolies…” is a nice idea, unfortunately, the consequences of a rash decision can be permanent, life changing and haunt young people and their families for years to follow.
Each year the Newspaper headlines reflect the tragic consequences of a poor split-second choice often made under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Too many young lives are changed forever. Our role as parents and educators is not to tell or boys what not to do, but rather to talk openly and honestly about identifying, managing and minimizing risk. The following tips appeared in a recent article that I wrote for the Wentworth Courier; I have expanded on each of these here:
- Strength in numbers
Get to know your son’s friends and their parents. This way you can present a united front on reasonable expectations and encouraging responsible decision making. Encourage them to look out for one another, buddy up, and commit to seeing each other home safely. Never leave a mate behind and this counts double for dates, girlfriends and female partners. Never leave someone to walk home alone or wait for a cab by themselves. If someone is not permitted into an event or venue then no body goes in, you find somewhere else to celebrate or you call it a night. Volunteer organizations such as Red Frogs can be a fantastic base of support.
- Talk to your teen
Brush up on your own drug and alcohol knowledge. Begin discussing hypothetical scenarios with your son from an early age. This should include defining a standard drink, pacing their alcohol intake and the signs of intoxication. Discuss the importance of drinking plenty of water, eating three substantial meals per day and getting enough sleep around their celebrations. Discuss how to respond if someone offers drugs or alcohol, drink spiking, sexual consent, respectful relationships, refusing lifts with intoxicated drivers, avoiding and responding to aggressive behaviours and when to call the police or an ambulance. You are so much better off having these conversations proactively rather than picking up the pieces after a curfew is broken or a mistake has been made.
- Exit Strategies
Plan how to get home from the celebrations well in advance, what to do if they can’t get a cab, etc. Agree on a check-in time each day, a text or call at a specified time just to let parents know that they are OK and having a great time. Find out who they are staying with and get their phone numbers as a back up for a lost phone, flat battery, etc. Agree on a “safe person to call” on older sibling, a relative, ideally not a parent. Someone they can call if they find themselves in a jam with no judgement and no consequences. If your son finds themselves in a predicament you want them to know there is always a way out and always someone to talk to. Know where the nearest hospital is, emergency room, police station, etc. Hopefully you don’t have to go looking for a missing friend. Know that it is OK to call for help particularly if a friend is unwell, ambulance drivers well not contact police unless they fear for their safety and the safety of others. Always remember you win 100% of the fights that you don’t have. Call the police before things get out of hand, if you feel threatened or unsafe, trust your gut and get out of there. Help your mates to stay calm and walk away if they have been provoked. Make good decisions.
To all the Schoolies enjoy a well-earned celebration and please do so safely.