‘Keep communication channels open. Most children will not have a problem with alcohol. A supportive family environment, where young people can openly discuss difficult issues and ask questions, helps to reduce the risk of problems occurring. If a problem does arise, a good supportive relationship with your child may place you in a better position to help them.’
The important principle above from the Australian Drug Foundation (2009) underscored the purpose of last night’s annual Safe Party Forum for our Year 9 students and their parents. The forum provided the opportunity for participants to consider some pivotal questions in this space:
- How does peer pressure affect teenage behaviour?
- How do the police view the teenage party scene?
- How can teenagers make considered decisions about alcohol?
The evening involved an insightful presentation from Senior Const. Greg Garrisson in which he shared important tips for parents, especially in terms of planning a party that meets the legal requirements and one that ensures a good time for everyone. Many parents also commented afterwards on the commendable way our Year 9 student leaders helped facilitate discussion in response to different scenarios. These case studies opened up dialogue about some of the issues facing students and their parents, and the conversations led to further strategies to help young people prepare for a night out, including:
- find out as much as you can about where you’re going
- plan how you’re getting where you’re going and how you’re coming home
- choose a ‘buddy’ for the night and make sure you know each others’ whereabouts at all times
- ensure that your ‘buddy’ knows your expectations of what to do if there is an emergency
- never go out on an empty stomach
- be well hydrated.
In recent years we have learnt a lot about the adolescent brain. While it was once believed that this complex organ finished developing around the age of 15, we now know that it takes much longer and that during adolescence the brain changes. As it is still developing, it is more sensitive and drinking alcohol can seriously damage short- and long-term growth processes. Therefore, our forum also linked closely with the Year 9 students’ Health curriculum where students are encouraged to view a range of health issues from different perspectives. The Health program also leads students through the science of alcohol and its effects on behaviour, along with discussions about responsible decision making and coping with the fallout that often results from poor choices.
The Year 9 Safe Party Forum is an important date on the Middle School calendar and we were pleased that so many members of our community were able to join us. We extend our thanks to Sally Nelson and the team of Health teachers whose work underpins the evening, as well as to the Middle School Heads of House who came out in support of our student leaders, and who also often need to guide our students through what are sometimes tricky decisions about their social worlds outside of school.
We welcome feedback and I would encourage Year 9 parents to email me if they have any thoughts on how the evening could be improved.
Finally, a note about our upcoming Parent Teacher Student Interviews. These are scheduled for Monday 8 August, Monday 15 August and Tuesday 23 August. We have moved these interviews earlier into Semester 2 to ensure that there can be adequate follow-up after core subject semester reports, subject choices reviewed, goals set, and that communication channels between students, teachers and parents in elective subjects can be established. Year 8 parents should note that due to the three-week Challenge and Choice program, Year 8 students have not yet had many elective classes. If parents wish to see teachers from these subjects, it is probably best to make a time in the second or third session of the Interviews. Alternatively, you are most welcome to make email contact with these teachers towards the end of Term 3.
Deputy Head of Middle School – Student Wellbeing