I remember the feeling all too well.
Walking out of the school gates for the last time to a sense of elation, freedom and slightly shitting my pants over what was going to happen next.
This year, like every year before, Year 12 graduates are letting their hair down to embrace the joy that is Schoolies.
Mine was rather uneventful, but memorable. A trip up north with a close group of friends to the sand, surf and sun of Great Keppel Island and a fling with a footballer (that actually turned into a bit of a long-distance gig for a time).
The thought of partying it up on the Gold Coast didn’t appeal to me, but others are much more adventurous than I was.
I like to think I was the model schoolie. Although there were a few sneaky drinkies, I was in regular contact with my parents and stuck with my friends so we were always safe.
I have yet to experience the phenomenon that is schoolies as a parent, but for those of you who are in amongst it right now, or who will be soon, here are some tips on how to keep your teen safe.
1. Start the conversation, ask questions, set some ground rules, stay in touch
That’s the catch phrase plastered all over the Queensland Government’s Schoolies info pamphlet, and while lots of those things can be challenging for a parent dealing with teens wanting to exert their own independence, it is a good place to start.
After all, getting their attitude of teenagers right before they go can help to keep them safe.
2. Carry appropriate ID
First things first, your teen should always carry an ID with them, it can be an 18+ card, keypass, driver’s licence or passport. This will help them get into safe venues designated for schoolies, which keep Toolies (the older ones who want to relive their youth) and Foolies (the underagers who want to pretend they are graduates) out.
3. Buddy system
The key message is Be Safe, Watch Your Mates. Reinforce the importance of sticking with their group, because the people they meet might be nice, but they are still strangers.
Communication is the key and parents should meet and get to know the mates their teens will be travelling or staying with and swap phone numbers with their friends’ parents to boost the communication network.
4. Negotiating boundaries
Although your teen is getting older and doing many things independently, they still need you to set boundaries. Raising Children.net.au says young people often depend on family or the promises they make to parents to explain to friends why they can’t do certain things.
Encourage them to plan their days because 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.