In November each year young people from all over Australia mark the end of their high school years with celebration and a ‘rite of passage’ that is centred around underage and excessive drinking. Over 70 per cent of male school leavers and 60 per cent of females report getting drunk on most or all days or nights of their schoolies week.
Most parents understand that the teen years are typically a time when young people begin to experiment with many things including drugs and alcohol. Your family values will influence how you see this time and how or if you try to influence your kids about their consumption of alcohol and drugs.
What you need to know
Alcohol is one of the most commonly used drugs in Australia. When consumed it can affect how the brain develops and young people under 15 years of age are at particular risk. The parts of the brain that are undergoing the most changes during adolescence are the frontal lobe and hippocampus, these parts of the brain are linked to motivation, impulse control and addiction.
There is a current trend with young people to mix alcoholic beverages with energy drinks. This can be extremely dangerous since alcohol is a depressant and energy drinks are stimulants. Mixing these two drinks together sends mixed messages to the nervous system which can cause cardiac related problems.
Kids feel that this process enables them to be energised and party longer into the night however alcohol dehydrates and caffeine is a diuretic which also causes people to lose water. Teens who mix these drinks are more likely to have severe hangovers, headaches, diarrhea, vomiting, increased heart rate, fatigue, muscle cramps, heart palpitations, disturbed sleep and impaired judgment. (The Australian Family Physician March 2011)
- Almost 90 per cent of Australian teenagers over the age of 14 years have tried alcohol at least once
- Alcohol causes most drug-related deaths in the teenage population
- In a survey of year 10 to 12 students 41% reported not using a condom during intercourse
When young people drink alcohol it can lead to a number of possible negative consequence including:
- Binge drinking
- Drink driving
- Unsafe sex
- Impaired brain development
- Injury or death.
As well as:
- Exposure to sexually transmissible infections (STIs)
- Possible pregnancy
- Date rape
It not uncommon for both young men and women to act out violently when they have been drinking.
So what can you do?
Parents can’t prevent their teenagers from experimenting with alcohol, but they can encourage sensible drinking habits.
- Offer good role modelling.
- Don’t buy alcohol for your kids
- Start teaching your child about alcohol from an early age
- Explain the downside of heavy drinking, such as vomiting, head spins, passing out and hangovers
- Educate your teenager on the links between drinking and dangerous behaviour, such as unsafe sex
- Teach your teenager sensible tactics such as how to say no, standard drink recommendations, ‘pacing’ themselves, alternating alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic beverages and not drinking on an empty stomach
- Talk about the dangers of drink driving or being in the car when the driver has been drinking and plan alternatives together, such as public transport, designated drivers or calling home
- Encourage your teenager to talk with their friends about the dangers of alcohol, so they can come up with ways to look out for each other
For Parents who’s Teens are attending …
Encourage your teens to …
- Stay with friends – don’t go anywhere alone – stay in well-lit areas – if you need assistance seek out “Red Frogs” to help get you home safely
- Don’t leave drinks unattended – drink spiking does happen with some pretty negative outcomes
- Don’t swim, go onto balconies or drive if you have been drinking
- Make sure your mobile phone is charged and has credit and keep it with you at all times
- Use condoms !!!
Here is a link to a great booklet that all parents and kids attending schoolies need to read
And an app for your kids to download onto their phones so that they can get assistance from Red Frogs while at schoolies
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Until next time ..