Schoolies Week has become a rite of passage in Australia for kids leaving high school. But the stories of alcohol, drugs, fights and crazy stunts worries many parents. Getting the attitude of teenagers right before they go can help to keep them safe.
This year, schoolies celebrations will continue until around December 9. And if you remember what it was like to finish school yourself, you’ll probably remember relief, joy, the terror of not knowing what was coming next… and the sense of being invincible.
What an amazing time in life!
Make Schoolies Week a learning experience
Schoolies Week lets teenagers begin to experience life in the adult world. Leaving school is both exciting and scary for most kids. So, as they’re making decisions about where they’ll go and what they’ll do, keep these things in mind:
Be willing to agree to something. It’s right that our teens want to celebrate the end of school in a memorable way. But that doesn’t mean you need to open your life savings for a glorious world trip. Negotiate on where they’re going, who with and for how long. Then talk about the cost.
Make them contribute. There is nothing worse for teenagers than getting something for free. They’re more likely to make sensible choices if they’re paying for some of it or wasting their own money.
Push them to plan their days. Kids who find themselves in trouble at Schoolies Week do silly things out of boredom. Teenagers with a plan for each day are going to have a far more memorable experience than those who are waiting for something good to happen.
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Talk about the dangers. Schools have great programs about how to stay safe during Schoolies Week. But parents need to reinforce these. Talk about the basics of drinking too much alcohol and what to do if they’re not drinking but others are. Explain how to keep their drinks safe, how to stay safe at night and where to go if they need help. You might get plenty of eye rolling, but at least the message will sink in.
The five attitudes to talk about before Schoolies Week
There will be lots of decisions for kids to make at Schoolies Week. For some kids, this might be the first time they make adult decisions without mum or dad hovering nearby. Ensure they’ve got their head around these five attitudes before they go:
1. Use your common sense. Most adults take their common sense for granted, but for a teenager, it requires thought. Talk about situations when the choice between doing something fun and doing something sensible might crop up.
2. Look after your mates. Most kids go to Schoolies Week with their friends. If they stay with their friends and keep to the organised activities, they’re likely to have a fantastic time and just come home with lots of washing. Don’t underestimate how much our teenagers need reminding to be a good friend.
“Explain how to keep their drinks safe, how to stay safe at night and where to go if they need help.”
3. Accept that the laws is there to protect you, not punish. With the freedom of Schoolies Week, many kids can think it’s a time to test the boundaries of the adult world. Talk about the rules of grown up life. Not drinking alcohol in public places, supplying alcohol to a friend who is under 18 or being smart to a police officer are all topics to touch on before they pack their bags.
4. Cleaning up is a part of life. Teenagers can turn any apartment into a hovel in 5 days. If they do this at Schoolies Week they’ll have a massive clean up at the end to get their bond back. Remind your teens that a little bit of effort every day will keep a space tidy. It should make the leaving as much fun as the arriving.
5. There is always help at hand. The drive to be independent can stop young people from getting help. In all the official Schoolies location they can find people from the Red Frogs, who are there to help. And of course, there’s no shame in calling mum or dad if things go really wrong.
This can be a great beginning for the next phase of their life, but for just a few it will the beginning of a nightmare. Make sure your teenager heads off to celebrate the best days of their life and comes home to tell the stories about it. Well maybe not to you…
About the Author
Article supplied with thanks to Rachel Doherty from Tweens 2 Teen. Rachel Doherty helps those living and working with young people, through supervision, coaching, speaking and consulting.