Boundaries set for teens
By ANDY PARKS
THE old African proverb, 'it takes a village to raise a child' has never been more true than these days.
Parents everywhere are struggling to set boundaries for their teenagers as they start experimenting with alcohol and other drugs.
Parents from Mullumbimby and Byron Bay yesterday spoke about how they were working with others in their community to set safe boundaries for their kids.
Gina Lakosta has three daughters aged 14 to 23 and used to work as a volunteer at the Byron Youth Activities Centre when all-ages dance parties were held there.
She also helped organise a party for teenagers at the Byron Swimming Pool earlier this year, and last weekend she had 14 14-year olds staying at her house during the Blues Festival.
"I told them if anyone comes home looking drunk I would snip their wrist bands. They might have had a little bit, but they managed it because there was that threat," she said.
"You've got to give them a little bit. Call up their responsibility and give them something to work with."
Setting clear boundaries and letting teenagers know what the consequences are if they go beyond them was a recurring theme throughout the discussion. Communication was the other big issue.
"You've gotta talk straight up with them. 'Where are you guys going? How was your night? What went on?' Encourage them to talk up. They like it, they respond. We talk about sex and the drinking. Especially other people's kids who you know don't talk to their own parents," said Rangi-Maria Ferguson.
Rangi-Maria and her partner have six kids between them, aged from six to 18.
She has have been involved with a community group pushing to get a youth centre in Mullumbimby for many years.
"You've gotta look out for all the kids. It's our community, that's why we do what we are doing."
Hans Enter has two kids aged 13 and 15 and said his house was also a bit of a 'mecca' for local teenagers.
"I find that in a group they will often talk to another parent. Maybe after they've had a bad experience, they'll debrief with you."
When we asked for some practical steps parents could take to make sure their teenagers weren't putting themselves in dangerous situations, Rangi-Maria was quick off the mark.
"You've got to organise their lifts, find out what they're drinking, make sure there is a sober parent at any party. Tell em 'give us a call and we'll pick you up'. They've all got mobiles."
Gai-Moana Perrot has two kids of her own who are 21 and 25 now, but she has another interest in the issue of teenagers' parties and binge drinking. Gai runs a small business called Doof Mammas who hire themselves out to supervise youth parties.
"At private parties we try to keep everything chilled so there are no fights, and if there are fights we get them out and don't let them back in. We call ambulances or police if it's needed, or we get people to drive kids home.
"I liaise with the police by telling them where I'm working and how many people are expected. Sometimes the police will call me and tell me to turn the noise down rather than come around and give the kids fines."
Gai said the business started because it was in her%nature to look after people.
"I do what you would do with your kids. I check how much alcohol they've got, or their condition and there are people I won't let in.
"They want boundaries, they want to be guided. They don't know if they'll get drunk on one or six, so if I tell them two is enough."