Practical ideas to help your child stay safe
These will depend very much on the age of your child, and their levels of maturity, independence and confidence, as well as other practical factors such where you live, where they’re going etc. Basic information you need to know is where they’ll be, who they’ll be with, when they’ll be back, how they’re getting home, but the level of detail you’ll want or need about this is dependent on lots of other variable factors.
Here are a few general practical tips:
- Make sure they’re well fed and hydrated
- Help them think through and plan how they’ll be getting home
- Make sure their phone is charged, and perhaps also that they have a charged-up battery pack and charger lead with them just in case
- Make sure their phone has their emergency contact details set so they’re accessible if their screen lock is on (see iPhone and Android instructions).
Have an escape plan
We’ve all been in situations where we’ve done things we wouldn’t have done because we didn’t know how to get out of it without losing face, offending the people we’re with or getting involved in a complicated excuse. Your child will find themselves in these situations too, and this is a simple plan you can hatch together to get them an escape route, and get them home and safe.
- Agree a simple message, code or emoji that means they need an excuse to get away from a situation. When you get this from them you’ll call, and then decide what they’ll use as an excuse their end.
- Collect/meet them as soon as you can.
- In order for this to work, parents have to promise beforehand not to pass any judgements or ask any questions (the hard part!). They’ll be much less likely to contact you, even if they’re desperate, if they know they’ll get in trouble with you for getting into a sticky situation, and your priority is to get them home and safe. As a parent, you can know you’ve done a good job in helping them develop their judgement about what is and isn’t a good place to be – and they’ll almost certainly tell you about it sometime anyway.
For more on this, see Bert Fulks’ advice here.
Harm reduction advice
It goes against the grain for most parents to talk to their children about how to reduce the risk if they do say yes to taking something, but it’s a very important part of helping them make safe choices, and ultimately all parents want their children to be safe. You can talk about this in terms of their friends possibly taking something and how they can best advise and support them. The important underlying message is that with illegal drugs the risk is always unknown and can only be managed so far, but there are some general things it’s good for them to be aware of. There is also specific harm reduction advice for individual substances which you can find on Frank.
- Stick with your friends and make sure at least one person stays clean and sober to look out for the others.
- Agree a meeting point at the start of the evening if it’s an unfamiliar venue.
- Start with a small amount until you know what the effect is and if it’s something stronger than expected, or with an unexpected substance mixed in with it. You can never assume, even if you’ve had something before, that it will affect you the same way another time, or that you have a ‘safe’ source.
- Watch your units if drinking alcohol and pace yourself, especially if there’s a long night ahead, or playing drinking games etc.
- Watch out for drink spiking – never accept a drink from someone you don’t know well and trust, never leave your drink unattended, keep your hand over the top of a glass or finger on a bottle in a pub or club, be aware of strange tastes or smells.
- Don’t mix any substances, whether alcohol and drugs, or different drugs, because it changes the effect and increases the risk.
- Always keep the packaging and tell someone clear-headed what you’re taking if you do, because if anything does go wrong this information can help medics respond as promptly and appropriately as possible and could save your life.
- Be aware of risks around you when your judgement is impaired, eg busy roads, open water, high places, and also situations you could get into where you might make risky decisions such as having (unprotected) sex.
- Never drive if you’ve drunk alcohol or taken any drugs, or get in a car driven by someone who has.
- If you don’t feel safe, get somewhere safe.
- Know the recovery position and make sure your friends do too – you could literally save someone’s life with this simple information. Watch the St John Ambulance video about the recovery position: