Staying safe during leavers 2019

Leavers is the term used to describe the celebration of the end of Year 12 exams in WA. It is often referred to as Schoolies in other states. Leavers has been growing in its popularity over the last decade and for many, is a significant ritual marking the transition from high school to adulthood. 

While it is important that young people do get a chance to celebrate this significant occasion it is more important that they stay safe. The mix of being away from home without parental supervision, often for the first time, being with their friends and interacting with people they do not know, may result in some young people finding themselves in situations that they have never experienced before. In particular, there is a good chance that adolescents will find themselves in a setting where alcohol is being consumed and possibly illicit substances are being used.

As a parent it is normal to be experiencing some anxiety and concerns about your child’s safety and wellbeing during Leavers.  

While you can’t be there in person to make or guide their decisions, you can prepare your child and yourself.

Be involved from the beginning

  • Encourage your child to work out a budget for their holiday so they are taking more ownership and responsibility over the event.
  • Encourage your child to celebrate only during the official Leavers period Monday 18 November to Thursday 21 November 2019 as this is when the event is organised and supervised by responsible adults. The weekend before Leavers occasionally attracts ‘toolies’ (early school leavers who are in apprenticeship training but join in Leavers celebrations) or other older individuals who can cause problems for school leavers.
  • If you don’t already, get to know the other Leavers your child intends to be travelling and socialising with. Encourage a planning meeting so you can have a say and contribute to some part of the planning.
  • Know the exact times and dates that your child intends to be away. 
  • Know how they will be travelling there and how they intend to travel around once they arrive.
  • Know the address and contact details of the place where your child will be staying. Know the names of the others staying there and their parents’ contact details. Consider using a website that helps young people organise and book accommodation. Some of these services offer a 24hr helpline for parents and students during the event. 
  • If your child is celebrating in the South West ensure they take photo ID with them to purchase a 2019 Leavers Wristband. They will need the wristband to gain entry into Leavers events.
  • Discuss alternative options to celebrating Leavers. More and more young people are choosing not to be involved in the traditional locations preferring instead to do something more unique such as a camping trip or even volunteering overseas.

Talk about safety

  • Communication and connection with your child is key and the style of communication you use is important. Ask open ended questions and encourage them to talk about what they have planned and prepared. Try and keep your emotions in check and avoid statements like: ‘Don’t do anything stupid,’ ‘Why don’t you…?’ or ‘Do you realise…?’. It’s important your child feels empowered and trusted and that you believe they will do the right thing.
  • Give them several scenarios and ask them what would they do and how they would manage themselves and their friends. Discuss how another person’s drinking may affect them. Encourage them to develop responses to different situations such as diffusing aggressive behaviour and avoiding getting into a car with someone who is intoxicated. 

Research shows that adolescents are better placed to respond well if they have thought about or practised a suitable response. Practise some sentences they can use to help them ‘save face’ if they’re being encouraged to do something they’re not comfortable with. One suggestion is to have a code word or phrase your child can use to text you if they have something urgent to talk about.  This allows them to remove themselves from a situation and use an excuse to go home if they feel unsafe.

  • Ask your child what they see as dangerous in terms of alcohol use and ask them to consider the consequences associated with binge drinking.  If your child is younger than 18 years of age remind them that they are not allowed to drink on any licenced premises and choosing not to drink is their safest option. 
  • Although illicit drugs are less associated with Leavers celebrations it’s important to have conversations about the risks associated with drug use, particularity around not knowing what they could be taking if they’re offered a substance. 
  • Emphasise strongly to your child that they should contact security, police and/or an ambulance if they or someone else becomes unwell.

Consider contact options

  • Consider organising a routine time and communication method with your child. Early morning or in the evening hours could be difficult so consider a time between 11am and 2pm each day while they are away.
  • Remember mobile phones are not always reliable at crowded events so it important not to panic if you can’t get in contact. Make sure your child has phone credit so they will not run out while they are away. Also remind your child that payphones are available and encourage them to carry change.
  • Consider having the phone numbers of your child’s friends handy in case you’re unable to contact your child. You may also consider obtaining the phone numbers of their parents.
  • Social media is another great communication tool. By being ‘friends’ on Facebook with your child and their friends you can keep an eye on their activities. Ask your child to tag you into anything they post so you can see they’re safe and having a good time!

Have a Plan B

  • The most important thing is to tell you child that you want to be contacted if they need help or want to come home - no matter the time or the situation. You may also want to discuss another person that they could contact such as a family friend or sibling if for some reason you’re not available.
  • Encourage your child to write down important phone numbers – many adolescents do not learn phone numbers and are totally reliant on their mobile phones which can make things difficult if it gets lost of broken. Suggest that your child leaves a list of important numbers at their accommodation and also carries one in their purse or wallet.
  • Discuss scenarios where your Leaver loses contact with their friends. Encourage them to have a Plan B in place if this happens. Suggest they organise a meeting point that they are all aware of and can use if they become separated.
  • Ensure your child knows the name and address of their accommodation and has considered how they will travel back there when they need too. One idea is to download the Uber app on their mobile phone and connect it to a pre-paid credit card so that you can be confident they always have access to transport.

Inform yourself 

  • Understand the immediate effects of alcohol use on the body and the short-term risks of alcohol use. It is also worth understanding the long-term effects of alcohol use on young people.
  • It is very worthwhile knowing some of the risks associated with illicit drug use. For information about drugs visit the Alcohol and Other Drugs section of this website.
  • Even if your child is 18 years of age do not provide them with alcohol to take to Leavers. Research shows that Leavers who believe their parents would approve of them drinking more than four standard drinks in a single setting resulted in heavier alcohol consumption. A more relaxed parental attitude seems to contribute to riskier use. 
  • Most Leavers are not yet 18 years of age and all Leavers activities are alcohol-free. There are lots of organisations and volunteers that work very hard to ensure Leavers have a fun and safe experience without the need for alcohol consumption. 
  • It is against the law for anyone to supply your underage child with alcohol. Adults who purchase liquor for juveniles are a significant problem for Leavers and contribute to alcohol-related harm, anti-social behaviour and offences such as sexual assault and violent crimes.
  • Under the Liquor Control Act, juveniles are unable to possess alcohol in a public place. Opened or unopened alcohol will be confiscated by WA Police and juveniles can be fined up to $2000.   For more information about Leavers visit the Leavers WA website. For more information about the alcohol and Leavers visit the Alcohol Think Again website.
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