With the onset of senior Formal, and the inevitable growing independence of our girls, I thought I would discuss some of the ways to navigate these times.
“You can call me, anytime. If you need me, I will be there.”
These words did not mean much at the time but in hindsight, I realise the immense reassurance that they provided me as a teenager. As Saturday night drew close, the tension would mount. Worry and negativity began to fill the air. My parents were never keen on me going out, and the anticipation of everything that could possibly go wrong was verbalised at great length.
Allowing your child to go out is a huge decision and the work actually only begins after you say yes. It is imperative that your child leaves home, feeling comfortable to call you at anytime, anywhere. You need to verbalise this to them at every opportunity, not just on the night that they are heading out.
Further, wherever she is going you need to outline a few simple expectations and have a discussion around safety and planning. Most children will view this, as ‘overkill’ and perhaps ‘smothering’ but it is the method of delivery, which will ensure success or failure.
Children need reassurance that they have your full support should they need to call ‘000’, for an ambulance or because they need medical assistance. It is surprising how many young people do not want their parents to find out or involve the police so they don’t make the call.
Calling an ambulance does not routinely mean that the police will attend. The paramedics need to inform the police for this to occur. Our children need to know this to eliminate such misconceptions and ensure their safety takes first priority.
Address written down
It is important that they store the address of where they are going on their phone or on a piece of paper. Twenty years ago, most triple zero calls were from landlines, therefore the address information was automatically communicated to dispatchers. Now when you call triple zero from a mobile phone, there is no fixed location information.
Ironically in this world of frenetic multi- channel communication, it is possible for pretty much anyone to know where you are at all times, except that is, for emergency services.
It is imperative that your child can relay their exact location in times of trouble.
Ensure that your daughter provides you with the name and contact number of a buddy who they will be hanging out with for the night. Again, this just ensures that together you have thought about a plan if your daughter is uncontactable. This advice comes from someone who has experienced the rise in blood pressure and catastrophe thinking that accompanies the moment that my child failed to answer her phone. Only to find out later that it was out of battery!
What is your ‘out’ word?
You must agree on an ‘out’ word. This allows you to assume the role of the ‘bad guy’ to help your daughter out of an uncomfortable situation. Perhaps she feels pressured by her peers to leave the event and go somewhere else. She may feel uncomfortable but using the ‘out’ word and a quick text from you, ensures that she remains safe and not forced to do something, of which she is uncomfortable.
I hope these few logistics help to build greater trust and communication between you and your daughter and to keep her always safe and out of harm’s way. Ironically, some of this, I learned through my own mistakes.
It is vital that our children socialize with their peers. This nurtures their emotional health and serves to establish their own sense of identity- to identify their values. We must trust that our continual narrative of support, open communication and reinforcement of our values will allow them to make informed decisions and if they falter, we are always there to catch them.
Mrs Deborrah Francis
Head of Senior Girls, Wellbeing