By now you may have been aware of the sad situations at a neighbouring school in which two boys allegedly took prescription medication, not prescribed for them, fell ill and were rushed to hospital. Young people are prone to risky behaviours and making bad choices – this is the nature of adolescence. It is therefore essential that we talk to our children about the significant risks associated with taking drugs or medicines not prescribed for them.
Young people need to understand that medicines can be very dangerous, and this is why they must be prescribed by a doctor. Sadly, some children associate medicines with positive health benefits and do not realise that in the wrong dose, when mixed with other medicines, or when not needed by their body, they can indeed be very dangerous. This is a message every parent needs to give their child.
When discussing such matters, it is also timely to have a discussion around the consumption of alcohol and illicit drugs. Drugs that impair or reduce our ability to make good decisions often lead to even greater harm, and again we need to reinforce these conversations with our children.
Whilst discussing this latter point, it is important that parents do know how these matters are reinforced when their child goes to a party when in another home. Not all families share the same values, especially with respect to teenagers and the consumption of alcohol. Intoxicated adolescents have impaired judgement and, when mixed with a propensity for risk-taking behaviours, this is a dangerous combination whether it be in relation to driving, poor decision-making or even promiscuity.
I am sure there are many homes in Australia in which parents wish they could turn back time and take a different and more direct approach to these matters.
On the matter of the supply of alcohol, it is a very poor host who would supply, enable or permit young people (especially another’s child) to consume alcohol below the legal drinking age. Such actions may in fact be considered as an offence and result in legal action. This would be even more likely should a child injure themselves or others as a result of impaired judgement from such consumption. This is one potential outcome that I feel is not considered strongly enough by parents in these situations.
We permit our children to go to parties and to get to know others socially, and we are appreciative when other parents host such events but doing so comes with significant responsibilities which are often not taken seriously enough. Sadly, it seems to take a serious accident in which the host of a party must face the parents of a child who has been significantly injured or even killed as a result of the impaired judgement from drugs or alcohol to change their approach.
We hold a sacred responsibility to look after each other’s children and our own at all times, and sometimes people are simply too lax in doing so or do not see the dangers. The result can be a lifetime of regret. We need to support other parents and inform them of what their child is doing; we need to stop being concerned about how such information will be received and do what we know is right; and we need to always be our child’s parent (not their best friend). Being a parent is the most rewarding role we will ever have, but the hardest. At times we need to give gentle love and at other times, tough love!
I ask parents to have these important conversations with their children and to ensure that, as they go through adolescence, parties and social gatherings are properly and responsibly supervised. I also ask that we all take a far greater responsibility, especially in hosting social gatherings and parties and ensure that these are free from alcohol and other behaviour-altering substances.