You’ve raised them, nursed them and protected them from the moment they were born, but now it’s time for your offspring to fly the coop. From walking around by themselves to living in their inner-city share house, our “invincible” teens need some sage advice about their personal security.
They’ve reached the age where they no longer want to spend every spare minute with you, they now want their freedom. From going to the beach to a local party, their friends are their family now. It’s important to teach your kids about partying safely. From drink driving and binge drinking to overdoses and assault, the cocktail of youth at a party can be lethal. However, the following advice can help your teen have a fun and safe time:
Eat well before you go out and keep hydrated. A good hearty meal of protein and carbs will slow the absorption of alcohol if you do plan on drinking. Continue to mediate your drinking with water in order to prevent dehydration, which is dangerous in and of itself.
Be responsible for yourself and those around you. Your teen’s personal safety should be their number one priority, followed by that of their peers. Tell them how important it is to know your own limitations and those of your friends. Keep an eye on everyone you’ve been travelling with. A good friend doesn’t let a mate drink and drive nor do they encourage others to get into the car with them after a few drinks. If you have the time to plan your outfit before you go, you have the time to organise how people are going to get home. Have a plan and a backup plan; don’t revert to dangerous methods of getting home just because you can’t get a taxi. Leave someone in charge of calling a cab to get you to your location and pick you up and ask a parent to collect you if that can falls through.
Stay together. It’s important that young people create strong bonds and start to develop a sense of responsibility for each other’s safety. Tell them the importance of sticking together. If someone needs to go to the bathroom, ensure they leave their drink with a trusted friend or take it with them — never leave it on the bar or in the care of an acquaintance. Don’t accept drinks from strangers. The guy that comes up to you with a tray of free drinks is never to be trusted.
Stick to public spaces and keep your cool. Your teen is bound to meet new people whilst out and about. The risk is always there, but they can be diverted by advising your teen to always stick close to friends, to tell people where they are or where they are going, and to remain in well-lit public spaces. Secondly, the mix of hormones and alcohol can result in aggression and tension. Teaching your children that ignoring confrontation in those situations is a strength and not a weakness is the best way to avoid verbal or violent assault. When things become heated immediately seek help from the authorities.
Moving out of home.
Share houses are becoming increasingly popular with young people, particularly students, living away from home. Often fresh out of school, they’re more concerned with partying and socialising than they are with mowing the lawn, security systems or checking the credentials of those they live with. Here are three tidbits of advice to help keep young home leavers safe.
Maintain a certain standard. Keeping your home presentable is a basic component of home and personal safety. Ensuring window locks are maintained, broken glass is always quickly repaired and the garden is kept neat is a good way to stop your home from looking like an easy target. They may think their rundown share house won’t appeal to the common thief, but a burglar knows a uni student’s accommodation when he sees one and may just opt for the chance that amongst the old beer cans and pizza boxes is probably an uninsured Macbook Pro purchased on student loans or with mum and dad’s birthday money. On a connected note, a messy home is also at increased risk of hazards like fire or accident. Papers, clothes and old food containers mixed with electrical wires or the student’s penchant for candles is a dangerous mix that can easily be avoided by a neat and tidy home.
Buy a fire alarm. As a housewarming gift buy your son or daughter a fire alarm. Ensure they have one in their bedroom and one or two in main areas of the home like the hallway and living area. Make sure they change the batteries and replace defunct or old alarms immediately. Since smoke alarms made their way into homes in the 1970s, house fire related deaths have dropped by half. If your son or daughter complains of “nuisance activations” -a bothersome alarm that goes off because of steam from a shower or food grilling on the stove- advise them to simply move the alarm to a place adjacent to the bathroom or oven.
Pick your housemates wisely. A lot of young people are finding flatmates through Internet back pages like Gumtree, through university notice boards or through peer shared events on Facebook. You need to let your son or daughter know that even though they may be excited about moving out of the family home, it’s important they find people they feel comfortable with on various levels. Before they sign a lease, make sure they’ve met and are happy with everyone living in their new home. Make sure they know about any regular guests, like their housemate’s partners, and how frequently they stay over. Ensure they understand the lease arrangement — are they subletting, whose name is on the lease and how much is everyone paying in rent and board. In terms of lifestyle and personality compatibility ask your child if they trust the people they’re moving in with, whether their schedules work well together and whether there’s any mutual acquaintances who can vouch for them.
Whether alone or with friends travelling overseas is an exciting time for young people and often a stressful time for the family they are leaving behind. Separated by hemispheres, you are truly incapable of taking care of your child’s safety. But there’s plenty you can encourage your sons and daughters to do before they leave and help them set certain procedures in place for whilst away in order to ensure everyone is aware of what they’re doing and how they are faring abroad.
Be informed and inform others. Once your child has chosen their coveted destination it can be a good idea for both of you to get online to check out the latest travel advice for the region. You can subscribe to email notifications that will alert you each time news or advice for the area changes. Secondly, ensure they register their travel plans and contact details online or at the local Australian embassy, high commission or consulate once they arrive at their destination. This way both your child and those at home can be easily contacted in case of an emergency. Thirdly, ensure they are well-informed about the laws and custom of the countries they are planning to visit and the appropriate visas they may need approval for before entering through customs. Being prepared and knowledgeable is the best way to stay safe and avoid stressful situations with international border security.
Prepare and alert. Advise your child that they should make copies of all their documents, passport, insurance policies, travelers’ checks, visa and credit card details plus any information about what immunisations they have or have not had before travelling and any medical conditions. Tell them to make various copies, keeping one on them at all times, one in the place they are staying and one with family or friends at home. This way if originals are lost, they will still have all the necessary details on hand. While we’re all capable of having a wallet stolen or a bag lost, it’s so pivotal to personal security that you keep copies of these all-important identity and medical records. Being stranded in a foreign country with no access to insurance details or a passport is a traveler’s worst nightmare.
Keep in contact. Booking in regular Skype dates or email sessions is crucial to everyone’s peace of mind. Every parent wants to know the whereabouts of their child, no matter how old they are now. Suggest they give you and a couple of friends a copy of their itinerary and drop in regularly online to let everyone know they’ve arrived safely or if there has been a change of plans. Suggest that if staying with friends, in hostels or in hotels that they let acquaintances, mates or staff know where they heading along with letting you know what they’re plans are in advance when possible. Simply letting people know where you are going, whether you’re planning to climb to HImalayas or heading for a night out on the town in New York, is a massive step towards maintaining a comfortable level of personal safety.
Before travelling overseas register your travel plans and contact details online or at the local Australian embassy, high commission or consulate once you arrive so we can contact you in case of an emergency.