When I was growing up my mum and dad trusted me when I said I was out with friends.....they never doubted for one minute that I’d be engaging in activities that would impact on my wellbeing or put me at risk. But there were times when I told lies, saying that I was in one place when I was really in another. When I look back on my teenage years I realise the risks that I put myself under. Having said that, when you compare it to the lives of many of the young people we work with....it was nothing.
In the 80’s, the media only really consisted of local and national papers and the idea of the internet must have been a glint in Timothy John Berners-Lee’s eye. So the information that my parents received about ‘young people’s inappropriate behaviour’ was minimal.
We now live in a world where we’re instantly in touch with national and international stories in real time, via our computers, telephones, tablets, laptops and the good old newspaper. We have a clear understanding of the behaviours young people are involved in - more often than not, through negative headlines that include words like ‘hooligans’ and ‘yobs’.
As parents, do we question what our sons or daughters are up to when we leave the house? Or do we believe everything they tell us?
As a mum and youth worker, my sons have probably felt interrogated at times regarding their social life. My work has shown me how self-destructive some young people can be in relation to risk taking behaviour and the consequences this behaviour can have on their lives in the long term.
A number of years ago, myself, a colleague and two police officers delivered a session on a Friday night in February which allowed us to respond to all youth related (police) calls and deal with them accordingly. At approx 10pm we found a young woman in Darwen Town Centre, aged 13, running out of a back alley crying hysterically. Her story could have been devastating to a local parent and I guess that we happened to just be in the right place at the right time...the young woman told us that her and her friend had been drinking and her friend had got so drunk that she couldn’t walk properly. When she collapsed at the back of one of the large bins, her friend had left her surrounded by bin bags of rubbish to keep her warm. We dealt with this young woman and also the other young girl who was so drunk she didn’t know her own name. Fortunately the police were on hand and the young lady was taken back home to her parents. They were mortified.
In the years since this incident, we’ve regularly asked parents this question: “Do you know what your son or daughter is doing, who they’re with and where they are?”
A number of questions struck me that night and subsequently encouraged me to take an even more active interest in my sons’ social lives:
- Who are their friends, where do they live and what are their parents’ names and contact details? If your son or daughter was late coming home, would you have all of this information?
- Are their mobile phones always charged? Many mobile phones have a locator on them - is this activated and is the location setting switched on?
- Does your son or daughter know what to do in a situation where they felt uncomfortable?
- What time are they coming home at? You could also give them a time, if you prefer.
- Have they eaten?
- Do they need any money?
- How are they getting there and back?
As parents there are also questions you might need to ask yourself:
- Does your son or daughter act differently when they come in from a night out? Do you think you’d know if your son or daughter had drunk alcohol or taken drugs, by the way they were acting?
- Are you aware of the current drugs available to your son or daughter? There are so many different drugs available to young people these days. Educating yourself about what these are could help you identify the behaviour caused by taking them. For more information you can get support from your local Young People’s Drug and Alcohol Services – just type it in a search engine along with where you live.
Here’s some other links that will help you find out more: