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Talk to your child about what to expect

Your teenager will get expectations of what Leavers will be like from school mates, and other friends. As a parent you can discuss and explain how drinking alcohol can impact on their Leavers experience.

It is important to provide young people with factual information about alcohol. Talking to your child about alcohol does not mean you are condoning drinking alcohol.

Research in Western Australia during Leavers celebrations showed young people who thought their parents would approve of them drinking more than 4 standard drinks of alcohol in a single episode reported heavier alcohol use.1

Ask your child what they expect will happen at Leavers and how they feel about going to Leavers. It may be the first time they have been away from home without adult supervision and it may have them feeling anxious even though they are excited to go.2 Explain that you want them to have fun and enjoy themselves, but you would like to make sure that they are going to be safe.

By discussing the potential risks your child may face during Leavers through consuming alcohol, you can help them prepare strategies to stay safe.

Some ideas for discussion with your child include the following:

How to look after themselves and their friends

  • Discuss your expectations about alcohol and the reasons why. You could negotiate an agreement with them about not drinking alcohol at Leavers celebrations and discuss what will happen if they break their agreement. For more detailed helpful information, check out our Young People and Alcohol booklet.
  • Encourage your child to participate in organised activities for Leavers that don’t include alcohol.
  • Encourage your child to look on the Leavers website to see if there are activities being run at their chosen destination.
  • Suggest good responses for your child to use to refuse alcohol when it is offered. This could include comments such as “I’m not into that”, and learning to feel comfortable to say no. Having a prepared response makes it easier for people to refuse alcohol when the time comes.
  • It is not okay to drink until they don’t feel well, vomit, pass out or need to be hospitalised. If they drink too much alcohol they could choke on their own vomit or experience alcohol poisoning which can be fatal.
  • It is easy to drink too much alcohol when you don’t know how alcohol will affect you, and that finding out how you react to alcohol in this very public setting could be potentially dangerous.
  • Suggest alternatives to drinking alcohol such as a soft drink, juices and sparkling water.
  • Never leave a friend alone if they are drunk or drinking alcohol as they may find themselves in trouble. 4
  • Discuss where to get help for themselves or their friends should the need arise. Make sure that your child understands that it is okay to contact you at any time if something goes wrong or if they are in a situation where they feel out of their depth.5

How does alcohol impact teenagers?

Alcohol use by young people can increase the risk of:

  • Violence, abuse and fights.
  • Accidental injuries such as road crashes, pedestrian accidents and drowning.
  • Depression, self-harm and suicide.
  • Unwanted or unsafe sexual activities.
  • Illicit drug use.
  • Sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy.
  • Family and other relationship difficulties.
  • Long-term physical damage, particularly to the liver, stomach and brain, caused by regular harmful drinking.
At a popular Western Australian Leavers celebration site, 87% of surveyed leavers reported at least one negative consequence that they attributed to alcohol or other drug use. For example, 58% reported a blackout, 41% an accident or injury, 21% had sex they later regretted, and 14% had unprotected sex. 1

What are the health effects of alcohol use?

The short-term effects of alcohol on the body and what happens if a person drinks too much alcohol. For example: vomiting, loss of coordination, blacking out etc.

Problems with other people and how to avoid them.

Discuss how other people’s drinking may affect them and help them to develop responses to these situations should they arise. Some examples could be how to defuse aggression and how to avoid getting into a car with someone who is intoxicated. 3

  • Discuss why it is important to stay away from people or groups who are being insulting, abusive or who they feel may cause a problem. You can explain that being in a situation where people or groups are acting in this way increases the likelihood of problems occurring. 4
  • Explain that being drunk when they are with large groups of people they don’t know can make them vulnerable to violence, sexual assault and other harms.

The laws related to alcohol.

According to the Liquor Control Act 1988:

  • It is an offence in Western Australia for people of any age to drink in public, such as on the street, in a park or on a beach. Opened liquor can be confiscated by Police. This offence carries a penalty of $2,000.
  • It is an offence for anyone under 18 to be in possession of alcohol (open or unopened) in a public place. The penalty for this offence is $2,000 and Police have powers to seize and dispose of the liquor under these circumstances.
 
References

1 National Drug Research Institute. School leavers' celebration: Parents can make a difference,. National Drug Research Institute Factsheet - Information for Parents [Internet]. 2013 02/09/2013 [cited 2013 02/09/2013]. Available from: http://ndri.curtin.edu.au/local/docs/pdf/leavers/parentsfactsheet.pdf.

2 Munro G. Schoolies: advice for parents. GrogWatch [Internet]. 2012 02/09/2013 [cited 2013 02/09/2013]; (85). Available from: http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=b091f64ebed780d91b194fb1b&id=2990437a9d&e=fb874e0778.

3 Allsop S. How to set teens up for a healthy relationship with alcohol2012 26/08/2013. Available from: http://theconversation.com/how-to-set-teens-up-for-a-healthy-relationship-with-alcohol-7370.

4 National Drug Research Institute. School leavers' celebrations: Tips for celebrating students 2013 [cited 2013 02102013]. Available from: http://www.communities.wa.gov.au/Documents/Youth/Leavers students factsheet.pdf.

5 Prevention OoC. Leavers WA: Official Website [Webpage]. Online. Available from: http://leaverswa.com.au/parents/