Make the most of lockdown (yes, there are upsides!)

Make the most of lockdown (yes, there are upsides!)

It sux, I know, it’s never nice to be ‘trapped’ in your own home with your kids. Stop the carousel, I wanna get off!!!! But wait. Before you drown in a vat of despair, let’s pause a moment. As the great sage (someone, somewhere) said, “It is what it is.” We can’t change the law, so we may as well settle in and make the most of lockdown, if we possibly can. Could there be, is it possible, an upside?

I truly believe there is because each time we’ve had a lockdown, I’ve quietly loved it. Sure, I don’t love the fact that we are cut off from seeing family and friends face to face. I don’t love that shopping for groceries has suddenly become the highlight of my week. I most certainly do not love online remote learning with three high schoolers.

And I absolutely hate that many people are struggling to make ends meet both financially and emotionally. Hate that people are sick in the ICU without their loved ones there to support them. Hate that troubled families are stuck together when they really need space. Hate that essential workers have no choice but to keep on showing up, day after day. Hate it, hate it, hate it.

I don’t love any of that, not one little bit.

But… it is what it is.

And since it is, let’s try our best to make the most of lockdown while we’re stuck in it. A little bit of optimism and a whole lot of stoicism will get us through most of it, and a little cry here and there will help soothe the rest. Here’s how I reckon it ought to go down.

This is how to make the most of lockdown

1. Embrace the simplicity

Call it boring, or call it living the simple life. Lockdown means there is a whole lotta nothing going on and I like it.

I’ve had roughly six hours put back into my week simply because I don’t have to drive my kids around. How much time a week have you been given back?

There’s time every day for a long walk with the dog. More time to plan meals and certainly more time to enjoy cooking them. So we’re eating better and rather than being an inconvenience that the busy teens endure because I make them, dinner time is a highlight of the day for everyone. 

We’re lingering together because there’s literally nothing else to do of an evening. So… love the simplicity. Slow things down and just allow the simple life to be a good one.

For kids who can’t handle simple: 17 projects for older kids that will help them find their passion

2. Reshuffle daily family habits

Since there’s no one else they can talk to, my kids are talking to me a lot more than they were. Is that the same for you?

I reckon they’re thinking “any port in a storm” and here we are, having chats.

Maybe lockdown will bring your family closer together

It might be about something in the news (or more likely that they saw on Tik Tok). Or the rush to let the household know how many cases there were overnight (if you’re interested, Twitter is always the first place to find out). Then we chat about the dickhead who visited 27 BBQ places whilst infectious – or whatever today’s news brings.

Lockdown allows for a bit of a reset of how we spend our days. Now is the time to introduce things you’d like to have in your family. Whether that’s setting a specific time together, heading out for a walk after dinner, or simply eating breakfast together and starting the day right.

We got into the habit of giving a rundown of our days early  in lockdown. Then it morphed into a fun way to make our dull days seem way more thrilling than they actually are. So we might commentate it like a really cool movie trailer. Or add suspense when there is none. Whatever gets us through, right?

Fresh ideas here too: 10 ways to make today a good day

3. Get a bit healthier

With so much less going on, I’ve been making the most of lockdown time by getting more exercise. I’m starting each day with a Pilates session before I sit down to work (I do roughly 30 hours of freelance writing and editing work a week as well as run Mumlyfe).

In the afternoon I take the dog out for a bushwalk in the trails around our home. Nine times out of 10, I can entice at least one of the kids to join me and most days my fella comes along for a chat too. Plus it’s currently the only way to see a friend F2F, so there is plenty of walking being done.

How to live happily in lockdown

None of these things are new to me (they are all part of my general wellbeing habits), but right now I can do them at my leisure. I’m not “fitting them in” around other stuff and it feels so good! Incidentally, here’s my foolproof, super-easy meal planning routine.

Along with taking more time to plan and shop for better meals, spending time outside each day is a game change for the health of anyone in lockdown. If you do nothing else, do this:

  • Spend at least half an hour outside every day, preferably in the morning
  • Eat loads of vegetables and some fruit every day
  • Drink plenty of water early in the day
  • Stretch your body and practise balancing every single day

4. Read more about everything

I’ve read five books since lockdown started three-and-a-half weeks ago. I hardly ever find time to read any more so this is a such a blessing. I’ve tried to shake up my reading with a mix of fiction and non-fiction. Each of my five books so far have been very, very good. I can highly recommend each of them:

  • Still Life by Sarah Winman (truly beautiful with characters you won’t want to let go of – I recommend any of her earlier books too!)
  • How Not To Diet by Dr Michael Gregor (if like me you’ve been trying to lose weight since forever, this book will blow your mind)
  • Every. Night. Of. The. Week by Lucy Tweed (this is a FANTASTIC family cookbook that I received early, but you can preorder it – it’s out in a couple of weeks)
  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (I bloody loved it, but then, I love everything about libraries, always)
  • The Secret Place by Tana French (Irish, murder mystery, cop procedural, part of a linked series, what’s not to love!)

Make time for reading

If you want to get the kids into a book or two during lockdown, here are some brilliant lists:

5. Do all the little things

So far I’ve cleaned the sand out of the downstairs storage room, painted the back wall in the garden (or the girls did, but I finally bought the paint), decluttered the dreaded third drawer down, restocked our street library and dusted and cleaned the skirting boards. Guess how many of those jobs have been on my list for AGES? All of them!

It’s not that these awful, fiddly little jobs are suddenly more bearable. It’s just that there’s nothing much else to do some days so I may as well have clean skirting boards.

Lockdown is the perfect time to make a list of all the silly little tasks you never get around to and then get around to them. My list is long, and hopefully lockdown will be short, but even just making the list is a win in my book. Have you made yourself a list?

Hope you and yours are all doing okay! Stay safe, stay positive, stay sane, stay home!

More thoughts on lockdown life:

Feature image by Sven Brandsma; sunrise by Eric Ward; kitchen by Soroush Karimi; walking by KaLisa Veer; reading by Matias North

6 strategies to help teens get enough sleep

6 strategies to help teens get enough sleep

We recently published an extract from Dr Ginni Mansberg and Jo Lamble’s new book The New Teen Age that really struck a chord with many readers. After reading about the impact of reduced sleep on teens, a few mums even wrote to us to say that they were now freaking out. “Knowing just how much staying up late is affecting my son and daughter’s health is horrifying,” wrote one mum. “But I’ve had zero impact trying to get them to go to bed earlier. Please tell me exactly what I can do to help my teens get enough sleep!”

If that doesn’t sound like a call to arms, I don’t know what is!

You can read the original article here.

The thing is, it’s quite natural for sleep to be disrupted in adolescence. Hormones change a person’s circadian rhythms and create something called a ‘sleep phase delay’. Secretion of melatonin is delayed by up to two hours, so adolescents naturally don’t ‘feel sleepy’ until later at night than children or adults. They may lie awake well past their bedtime and decide that it’s because they ‘don’t need’ to sleep.

However, the complete opposite is true. Kids need sleep in adolescence just as much as ever. Here’s what you can do to help your teen get enough sleep. Start with the first two points, because without them you won’t get anywhere whatsoever. Then try some of the additional strategies and see what works for your kids.

Strategies to help teens get enough sleep

Help teens get enough sleep

1. First, you’ll need buy-in

Without this, you won’t get anywhere trying to help your teen change their sleep patterns. They have to want to have a better sleep routine in the first place. How do you bring them over to the dark side (so to speak!)? Try these suggestions:

  • Have them read our article about the negative affect of a lack of sleep on kids. Points #7 and #9 might have a particularly strong impact on teens…
  • Then try approaching it from an ‘overall health’ perspective. Hit them where it matters most:
  • If all else fails, it’s worth ‘swapping’ something your child wants for a promise to work towards better sleep habits. While this isn’t the ideal way to achieve buy-in, any port in a storm, right? This might be swapping a weekly lift to a friend’s house for an agreement to be in bed by 9.30pm. Or getting out of daily chores if they go to bed on time the night before. You might even ‘swap’ buying them a longed-for item for a few months good sleep. Whatever works at your place.
  • Getting enough sleep is so important (for everyone, but especially in the adolescent years), that if I wasn’t getting their buy-in using the methods above, I’d have no hesitation in paying my teens to agree to make sleep a priority.

I’d have no hesitation in paying my teens to agree to make sleep a priority.

2. Get the screens sorted

Study after study has found that excess use of screens (especially at night) has a direct impact on sleep. Using screens – at any time of day, but particularly at night – affects the body’s ability to produce melatonin, which delays the feeling of sleepiness and leads to less restful sleep when they do finally fall asleep. Excess screen time, has also been linked to shorter overall sleep time and increased daytime tiredness. It’s the stimulation, distraction and general light coming from screens that is the problem.

Remove devices from bedrooms

The ABC’s Australia Talks Survey 2021 also found that keeping devices in an adolescent’s rooms overnight was a sure-fire way to wreck their sleep. More than 50% of teens admitted to using these devices after their parents assumed they were sleeping.

In other words: kids aren’t trustworthy around screens as a rule. It’s not their fault and it’s not that you don’t specifically trust your own teen, but the stats don’t lie! Screens are tempting, distracting little buggers that lure us awake by pinging at us to check that we’re not missing out on anything. How are kids going to resist that? Willpower alone is not going to cut it, and nor is ‘promising’ to stay off their devices after light’s out. They need to go, full stop.

To get the screens sorted at night, manage their overall use during the day and get them out of the bedrooms. Lock them up if necessary and buy your kid a separate alarm clock. Put it this way, if we don’t get the devices out of the bedrooms, there’s not a lot else we can do to help teens get enough sleep.

Tips to limit overall screen time: Managing screen time is about more than setting limits

3. What you do in the daytime matters

It’s not all about the night. Studies have shown that our body clock gets primed for a good night’s sleep from the moment we wake in the morning. Being exposed to sunlight immediately after waking helps us feel sleepier at night. So spending five minutes outside first thing in the morning will help teens get enough sleep that night.

Good sleep is built across a whole day, not just at bedtime.

There’s also the importance of getting some exercise very day to improve sleep onset (the amount of time it takes to fall asleep), duration and quality. Moderate-to-vigorous movement for at least 30 minutes no later than an hour before bed is all it takes to improve sleep quality. Hopefully your child is already getting plenty of daily exercise, but encouraging an after-dinner walk might help too.

Morning sunlight is great for night time sleep

Finally, it’s important to encourage the kids to eat a healthy diet with plenty of water, vegetables and wholegrains. A diet high in fibre and low in saturated fat is best. Caffeine should be kept to an absolute minimum, and preferably zero after 4pm. Adolescents are particularly susceptible to caffeine, so that means keeping an eye on the Coke Zeros and both eyes on the iced coffees and lattes.

All of this is the usual commonsense approach to healthy living, but I’m noting it down here as a reminder that good sleep is built across a whole day, not just at bedtime.

Healthy living tips: 3 daily wellbeing habits (these are my non-negotiables)

4. Establish a solid bedtime routine

It worked when they were babies and it still works now. A strict bedtime routine is crucial for (a) winding down at night to prepare the body for sleep and (b) help teens get enough sleep by getting them to bed at a decent time.

At this age, the bedtime routine should encompass any hours after dinner is finished and before it’s sleep time. Start with the time your child needs to get up in the morning. Then work the bed time back from there to allow for the total sleep time you want your child to have.

Amount of sleep we’re aiming for

A quick word on the amount of sleep an adolescent (11-17 years) needs: eight to 10 hours sleep a night is recommended. The younger the child, the closer to ten hours of sleep they will most likely need. That means that if your child needs to be up at six to get ready for school, they will need to be asleep no later than 8pm for younger kids and 10pm for older kids.

It also depends on individual needs, so work with your teen to experiment on how much sleep suits them best. Change their sleep time by half an hour each day and see if they are still able to get up willingly when the alarm goes off in the morning. If it’s hard to get up more often than not, they need more sleep.

An alarm clock can help teens get enough sleep

For a teen, the bed time routine might look something like this:
  • 7 pm – Help with after-dinner chores like washing and tidying up
  • 7.30 pm – 1.5 hour gaming / browsing / YouTube / social media
  • 8.30 pm Screens away and hot shower or bath to help wind down
  • 8.50 pm – Listen to music and work on a quiet hobby (reading, drawing, yoga, painting, collecting, puzzles, colouring, playing an instrument, creative writing, etc)
  • 9.20 pm – Pack away the day and prepare for tomorrow
  • 9.30pm – Say goodnight to the family, take devices out of the bedroom to charge and get into bed
  • 9.30 pm – 30 minutes of quiet time in bed (see more on this below)
  • 10 pm – Sleep time = lights out

5. Investigate some sleep soothers

There are lots of different ‘sleep aids’ that may also help your teen get enough sleep. Medications like melatonin or herbal supplements like valerian may be something you would like to try, so please consult your family doctor on those. For non-medical sleep soothers, give some of these a go.

Meditation

Meditation and other mindful activities have been shown to significantly improve sleep quality. Calming the mind helps settle the body, evoking the relaxation response and increasing the production of the sleep hormones serotonin and melatonin.

Meditation can be as simple as doing some breathwork like 4-7-8 breathing, counting sheep or simply letting your thoughts drift by without focus.

If your teen has never meditated before (they often learn techniques at school), it might be helpful to give them access to an app like Headspace or Smiling Mind to help them along. While this goes against the ‘no screen’ rule above, you can agree to let them use the app for 30 minutes and then take their phone away for the night.

More on this: Why mindfulness for kids is more than just a buzzword

Journaling

This is an especially good quiet activity for kids who are prone to anxiety. Journalling just before sleep is a good way to get thoughts out of our head and create a calmer mind.

Your teen may like to use their journal to write down a daily gratitude list, compose some poetry, write a traditional journal entry or even just write some to-do lists for the day ahead. It’s actually been shown that writing out a to-do for tomorrow helps people fall asleep faster.

Music

Listening to music can help some people drift off to sleep. Slow and steady non-danceable music with a stronger bass and lower frequency works best. Many classical music pieces fit the bill (Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata and Debussy’s Clair de Lune are two), but that won’t be to every adolescent’s tastes. Songs like Coldplay’s Fix You and Yellow fit the bill, as does Florence and the Machine’s Cosmic Love.

Again, they’ll probably turn their noses up at these ‘old people’ classics.  To help you get a feel for the kind of music that works, there’s a playlist compiled by UNSW sleep expert Dr Thomas Dickson here. As with meditation using an app, agree to take your child’s phone from their room at a certain time.

The ‘Military Method’

This relaxation method comes from US Navy training as outlined in a book called Relax and Win: Championship Performance by Bud Winter. Apparently the method helps 96% of soldiers fall asleep even in the middle of a combat zone… so it’s definitely worth a try to help your teens get enough sleep! 

  • Relax your entire face, including your eyelids, tongue and jaw
  • Drop your shoulders to release all tension, then let your hands drop to the side of your body
  • Inhale, then exhale deeply, letting go of your chest
  • Then relax your legs, including your thighs, knees, calves and ankles
  • Clear your mind for 10 seconds by imagining a relaxing scene
  • If this doesn’t work, try saying the words “don’t think” over and over for 10 seconds
  • Within 10 seconds, you should fall asleep…
White noise

Did you have a white noise machine when your kids were babies? It might be time to drag it out of the closet. For the same reasons it soothes babies, white noise can help an older child switch off their over-stimulated brain and fall asleep. That is, white noise consists of every audible frequency, which means it creates a blanket of sound that blends all other noise into one consistency. So you’re not woken by the owl or car alarm outside your bedroom window.

If you didn’t manage to hold onto the white noise machine for a decade, there’s a good overview of systems here.

6. Set some hard rules

Work with your kids to establish some structured boundaries that show their commitment to their sleep and health. This should include what time they start getting ready for bed, what time they are in bed and what time the light is out. Set it out as a pledge, like this example:

“I will start getting ready for bed at X o’clock and be in bed by Y o’clock. I will read/meditate/journal for X minutes with lights out at Zzzz o’clock. I’ll get up at A o’clock each morning.”

Remember, the ‘wake up time’ is the time that sets the whole routine in motion. It’s important for your teen to stick with it and not be tempted to ‘sleep in’ on the weekends. Yes, adolescents can get tired during the week and be temped to ‘catch up’ on the weekends. It’s not unusual to see them surface at midday or later. However, all the studies indicate that this isn’t doing them any good. In fact, sleeping in on the weekends can disrupt their weekday sleep even further.

Instead, the solution might be taking a 30-60 minute nap on weekends, sometime between midday and 2pm.

Do you have any other advice to share to help teens get enough sleep?

Feature image by Victoria Heath; b+w by Kinga Cichewicz; laptop at night by Jay Wennington; sunlight by Leon Biss; clock by Adrien Robert; journal by pure julia 

Besto scrolls: simply the best pesto and cheese scrolls recipe

Besto scrolls: simply the best pesto and cheese scrolls recipe

I’ve called these besto scrolls because they are simply the best pesto and cheese scrolls ever. You may not have known there was a hierarchy of pesto scrolls, but there is. Let me tell you, these ones are at the top of the heap.

There are quite a number of reasons for that:

  1. The dough is really fluffy and light, but gets a good crunch on the outside.
  2. There is added cheese – always a good idea.
  3. It’s probably the easiest pesto and cheese scrolls recipe you’ll find. (Apart from one that uses the 2-ingredient yoghurt/SRF dough, which is ridiculously easy but not as good.)
  4. These scrolls are wonderful fresh from the oven, but they also keep well
  5. In fact, the pesto-y goodness improves with a little time, but the bread stays soft and good
  6. Which makes them especially good for lunchboxes.

Right, so now we’ve established the many reasons why you need to make this recipe ASAP, let’s get on with it.

Pesto and cheese scrolls are so good

More good scrolls here:10 really good lunchbox scrolls to make ahead

Making the pesto scrolls

Pesto is very simply to make (as this recipe will show you), but if it all seems like way too much food processing action (aka clean up), I understand. Feel free to use a jar of store-bought pesto instead. The Jamie Oliver brand at Woolies is quite nice, but for the tastiest you can’t go past Barilla. The Pesto alla Genovese is my fave, but the version made with rocket is a close runner-up.

That said, if you can swing it, do make the homemade stuff. It’s zingier and fresher and you can experiment with it to get it just the way you like it. I like to sub out half the pine nuts with cashews for my optimal version. It’s cheaper to make it that way, too.

Pesto and cheese scrolls recipe to make

As for the dough, don’t skimp on the necessary rising time. Giving it the full rise is the only way to ensure maximum fluffiness. I make the scrolls the night before right up until they are ready to bake, then keep them in the fridge overnight. 

In the morning, I take them out and leave to rest for 20 minutes while I get on with my morning routine (such as it is). You could also put them straight into the oven and give them an extra five minutes or so.

Then into the oven they go while the kids get up and start their morning grumping at everyone. A fresh pesto scroll for breakfast is a sure way to improve their mood.

Pesto scrolls with cheese recipe - bake these
Yield: 12

Best pesto scrolls recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Additional Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes

Everyday pesto scrolls with cheese are delicious in the lunchbox or for a homemade after-school snack.

Ingredients

  • For the dough
  • 1 cup warm whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3½ cups plain flour, plus extra if needed
  • 1 packet (7g) instant dry yeast
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • For the pesto filling
  • ⅓ cup pine nuts
  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ½ cup parmesan, grated
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 cup tasty cheese, grated

Instructions

    1. Put the milk, honey, eggs, butter, 3 ½ cups flour, yeast and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer (I use a KitchenAid). Mix using the dough hook until a soft dough forms. This will take about five minutes. The dough should be very stretchy, but not overly sticky. If it seems too sticky after five minutes, add a little extra flour and mix until consistency feels right.

    2. Cover the bowl with a slightly-damp clean tea towel and leave at room temperature for about an our or until doubled in size. Note that on a warm day, your dough will rise faster.

    3. While the dough rises, prepare the pesto and cheese filling. Blitz the pine nuts and basil in a food processor, then add the garlic and parmesan and pulse several times. Scrape down the sides of the food processor from time to time.

    4. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil in a steady stream, occasionally stopping the processor to scrape down the sides. Set aside.

    5. Preheat oven to 180°C and line a baking tray (roasting pan) with baking paper.

    6. Punch the dough down in the bowl (my favourite part!), then turn out onto your flour-dusted work surface. Use a rolling pin to gently roll the dough out into a rectangle about half a centimeter thin.

    7. Spread the pesto evenly over the dough then sprinkle the cheese over the top. Lightly press the cheese into the pesto. Starting with the edge closest to you, carefully roll the dough into a log, keeping it tight as you go. Press to seal the edge.

    8. Use a sharp knife to cut the log into 12 pieces. Put the rolls into the baking tray, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise for 30 minutes (or overnight, see notes).

    9. Bake for about 20 minutes until cheese bubbles and rolls start to brown a little.

Notes

You can make the rolls the night before and leave in the fridge overnight before baking. If you do this, give the bake time an extra five minutes.

Keep in an airtight container for a couple of days, or allow to cool completely, wrap and freeze for up to a month.

 

How we handle drugs and alcohol at teen parties

How we handle drugs and alcohol at teen parties

Teen parties are terrifying. While in most states it’s actually not illegal to serve alcohol to minors in your home*, it’s not what most parents want. I don’t know about you, but I have zero interest in young kids getting smashed in my backyard. Which is why, despite not ever seeing any kid with drink at my house, I’ve researched the best ways to handle drugs and alcohol at teen parties.


* Note in most states, and there are strict requirements involved, including getting permission (preferably written) from parents or guardians. And note that teens taking drugs at your house (or anywhere, ever) is never going to be legal. Here’s the full lowdown:

Is it illegal for underage teens to drink at parties?


I love that my kids know they can have a gathering of friends at our place at any time. It’s pretty much an open door. I probably say that knowing that I don’t have kids who are in a big crowd of friends. They are also not the ‘popular’ kids who are into everything. So there’s that. I might feel differently about the open door if it was banging open and shut on the daily.

That said, my son does like to have groups of friends over around the firepit. Mostly throwing stupid shit into said firepit, but otherwise just talking and paying each other out.

Max knows that we don’t support drugs and alcohol at teen parties, but he also knows we’re not naive in thinking it’s never going to happen.

It’s going to happen.

Our approach to drugs and alcohol at teen parties

There are quite a number of teens who smoke pot and inhale nangs, and some who are into harder drugs. If you allow your kid to have a gatho, you will most likely be opening your door to some or all of that. If that makes you uncomfortable, then I’d suggest you don’t let your kids have a lot of friends over all at once.

That said, I totally get that it’s #notallteens. There are plenty of groups of teenagers who are not into any of this stuff whatsoever. There’d be zero chance that a single one of them would bring drugs and alcohol along to a private gathering… are you 100% sure?

So, here’s what I think is the best way to handle things. You might have a different level of tolerance, and different reasons for having that level of tolerance. So always go with your gut instinct and do what’s right for you.

How we handle drugs and alcohol at teen parties

Permission from parents

I think this is a really strange law. Fair enough, if these were young kids (in which case, WTF alcohol and drugs!), but older high school kids? Not going to happen. Especially when it’s not a ‘big party’ organised for a birthday or graduation or something special. When it’s just a gathering of 10 or so, maybe more, kids in your backyard, it’s technically still a party, but super casual.

First up, we don’t even know the parents of many of the kids who come to our home. 

Secondly, even if we could get the necessary written permission from the parents, I’d be skeptical about the authenticity of some of those emails.

Thirdly, kids sometimes just show up during the night. No idea even who they are, let alone who their parents are.

So, all in all, the written permission thing might work okay for some parents, but I’ve no idea how we’d make it work at ours.

Hard to know how to manage this weird law…

And sure, we could say that without a permission note you can’t come into our house. That might be the solution that works for some parents, and that’s great. We’ve just never had the need to take such a hardline. Even after a few years of hosting gatherings from time to time.

It depends on the kids, it depends on the parents and, sometimes, it depends on the night.

Either way, I think the permission from parents thing is a total farce and the law needs to change.

Frankly, I don’t think serving alcohol to minors in any home other than their own should be a thing at all.

That way, there are far less grey areas of the law for kids to get drunk in. And it stops the onus being on the parents hosting the party, and instead puts it back on the kids themselves and their own parents.

Do they even know where they are, let alone give permission?

Oh, one more thing about the permission from parents thing (can you tell I can’t believe it even exists?).

There is one friend in the group of kids who regularly gather at our place whose parents are in contact with me. These parents generally text the day of the gatho to check that it’s on, what the deal is, what time it ends, etc.

Not a single parent from any of the other kids has ever made contact with me. Over the years, these are parents of kids aged anywhere from 13-14-15-16-17 years old.

Would you make contact? I know I do!

As the kids get older it’s mainly to check that the hosting parents are even aware the gathering is happening.

When the kids are younger, it’s to check when I can drop and pick them up from the front door.

How do you handle drugs and alcohol at teen parties

If you have to do it, do it elsewhere

We know kids are going to do drugs and drink at a party, but we’d prefer they did it before they arrived in our home. Maybe they’d like to do it in their own home? Hmmm, didn’t think so.

That’s the thing about parent permission for kids drinking in someone else’s home: who actually gives their permission? Who happily sends their kid off to a party with a bottle of Southern Comfort and a note saying ‘drink up, honey?’. Would these same parents be happy having their kid sit in the living room at home with a few friends and get on it? I very much doubt it.

But back to the gathering… For some families, doing bag checks at the front door is where they are comfortable. This has never worked for us as there are lots of access points into our home. Instead, we just put a level of trust in the kids that come to the party. We assume that our kids have made good friends with kids who do the right thing. So far, that trust has never been broken.

Invisible, if there

When I say our trust hasn’t been broken, I mean visibly. Max’s friends know we have zero tolerance for any visible drug or alcohol use. To check for this, we do random wanders through the gathering, picking up rubbish with our eyes out on stalks.

If I see the drugs or grog, and most definitely if I see you using the drugs, I’m driving you home. Provided it’s safe to do so, of course.

Depending on how blatantly you’ve disregarded our rules, I’ll probably ban you from coming to our house again.

This is how we handle drugs and alcohol at our kids parties

Eat up, kiddos

We’re going to assume that alcohol and drugs are going to make their way in somewhere. Whether that’s before the party or during. So we always make sure there is substantial food served at gatherings in our home. Mind you, the kids who are bonging on always bring a shopping bag full of chips along (that’s an alert as to who you should be keeping an eye on from the start!). 

Having hot food like hot dogs, party pies, sausage rolls or pizza served is essential. We serve up a batch early in the party, and then have one on hand for late. Kids always need feeding, whether they’re using drugs or alcohol or not.

We also make sure there are water and clean cups available at all times. Just keep topping up the water bottles. It’s a good excuse to do a drive-through of the party anyway.

Always there

With a bit of luck, a bit of parental vigilance means you’re going to attend a gathering at our place and not get tanked. But if you’ve somehow managed to get yourself hammered in my backyard, please do not hesitate to let me know if you need help.

I won’t judge and I won’t necessarily dob you into your parents, either. I will, however, drive you crazy with a massive lecture on drinking sensibly. I’ll probably phone you up over the next week or two and still be giving you that same lecture.

Provided it’s safe to do so, I will also insist on driving you home and walking you to the front door. We’ll ring the bell together and, while I won’t say anything to your parents, I’ll let your current state speak for itself. Hopefully they’ll keep the sensible drinking education going from there.

Everyone home safely

I’m frequently amazed at the number of kids who just wander off after midnight, heading home. It’s a big walk to the station from our place, and buses don’t run at night. How are they getting home? Especially the kids who live a couple of suburbs away!

The offer of a lift is always there, but it’s rarely taken up. My only hope is that their own parents are meeting them down the street and taking them home safely. I know that’s what I do when my own kids are out late at night.

Feature image by Jacob Bentzinger; girls pouring drink by Pelayo Arbués

Is it illegal for underage teens to drink at parties?

Is it illegal for underage teens to drink at parties?

When my son wanted to have a ‘gatho’ at home for his birthday, my instinct was to say no. Waaaay to risky to be the parent of the teen party. But he won me over, and so I got stuck into the research. I wanted to know how to manage others kids drinking (because, of course, it would never be my angel who drinks or bongs on at 16 – ha!). My research quickly had me confused AF: did you know that in most states of Australia, it’s not actually illegal for underage teens to drink at parties?!?

As well as the Australian legal drinking age (18 years old), which covers drinking at licensed venues, each state has its own Secondary Supply law. This covers drinking in private, unlicensed places like your home.

Only Queensland says you can’t serve alcohol to minors in your home if they’re not your own kids. All the other states allow it if you have permission from the parents of the minors. In the Northern Territory, you don’t even need that, you only need to let other parents know that alcohol is going to be served.

I had always assumed that the legal drinking age is 18 in Australia, and that’s that. Anything else is underage drinking and illegal. Not true!

Permission from the parents

So, most states and territories allow minors to drink in your home as long as you have permission from the parent or guardian of the minor. Like I said, this was a big shock to me – I had no idea that the law allowed minors to drink alcohol without their parent present. But it does.

Frankly, that’s a massive responsibility on any parent of a teen hosting a party. Even assuming each kid managed to bring the necessary written permission from home (trust me, this is not a time to rely on a phone call). You can imagine how many of those ‘written letters’ would be forged by a sneaky 14-year-old eager to get on the grog.

Read this too: Parents, from all of us, please, please stop giving in to your kids

Responsible stone-cold-sober supervision

You also need to ‘responsibly supervise’ all the drinking kids. This means you need to supply food, you need to be actively present and keeping and eye on things, and you need to ensure none of the kids gets intoxicated. Oh, and you can’t pour yourself a stiff one to get through this night of horror either… no drinking on the job.

As well as needing the permission of the parents and being responsible, there are plenty of other rules around the minors drinking in your home. These vary by state, so let’s take a look at each state’s requirements. I’ll give you a link to where you can find out more info.

A sobering read: “You probably won’t know your teen is smoking pot”

Is it illegal for underage teens to drink at parties

Note: The following is for information purposes only, and is correct at the time of publication, meaning information may not always be up to date. Always check your state’s government or police website for the most up to date information.

Also note that this article applies to alcohol at teen parties, not drugs. Under no circumstances is it ever legal for a minor (or anyone, ever) to take drugs in your home.

Secondary supply law: New South Wales

Where I live in NSW, you have to have a parent’s or guardian’s authorisation in order to supply alcohol to a minor in your home. There are several factors involved and an on-the-spot $1,100 fine can be issued if you’re found in breach. In addition to the on-the-spot fine, a court can impose fines of up to $11,000 and/or 12 months imprisonment. The caveats are:

  • the age of the minor
  • whether the person supplying the alcohol is intoxicated
  • if the minor is consuming the alcohol with food
  • whether the minors consumption of alcohol is being responsibly supervised by the person supplying the liquor
  • the quantity of liquor and the period of time over which it is supplied

If a minor is intoxicated, there are no circumstances under which it’s okay to supply them with alcohol. 

More info: NSW alcohol and young people law.

Secondary supply law: Australian Capital Territory

To serve alcohol to a minor in your home, you need permission from the child’s parent or guardian and provide responsible supervision while they are drinking.

More info: ACT secondary supply of alcohol to minors.

Secondary supply law: Victoria

To serve alcohol to a minor in your home, you need permission from the child’s parent or guardian and provide responsible supervision while they are drinking.

More info: Supply of liquor to minors

Secondary supply law: Northern Territory

It’s legal for a person under 18 to drink at a party at a private home when served by a parent or guardian and responsibly supervised. You need to let parents of the kids attending know that alcohol will be served, but you don’t need their permission. 

More info: Young people and parties

Secondary supply law: Queensland

You can only serve alcohol in your home to your own child or guard and only if you supervise them responsibly. You can face court and be fined up to $10,676 for supplying alcohol to a person under 18 in your home, if you are not their parent, step-parent or guardian and providing responsible supervision.

More info: Supplying alcohol to under 18s

SA (also, this handy summary)

Secondary supply law: Tasmania

To serve alcohol to a minor in your home, you need permission from the child’s parent or guardian and provide responsible supervision while they are drinking.

More info: Youth and alcohol 

Secondary supply law: Western Australia

To serve alcohol to a minor in your home, you need permission (preferably in writing) from the child’s parent or guardian and provide responsible supervision while they are drinking. Supplying alcohol to a young person under the age of 18 without parental permission carries a maximum $10,000 penalty.

More info: Alcohol laws for under 18s

Is it illegal for underage teens to drink at parties - the answer might surprise you

Yes, but no

So, the answer to the question ‘Is it actually illegal for underage teens to drink at parties?’ is YES, but NO.

No thank you, I don’t want to have to round up fifty permission notes from parents. I don’t want to be checking those at the door and having the conversations with smartass teens about the dog eating their permission note.

No thank you, I don’t want responsibility for 50 underage minors getting on the turps. You can supervise them however you like, some are going to get nasty drunk. No way do I want to have to deal with that.

100 x No thank you, no thank you, no thank you. It beggars belief that the law is technically on the young teens’ side. Certainly not on the side of the poor parent telling their kid they can’t have drinkers at their party.

Man, you can only pray that other parents are kind. Kind enough to say there is no way they’re giving permission for their kid to drink at some other poor parent’s house!

In the end, I said no to alcohol at my son’s gatho. We kept an eye on things and if kids were drinking (or bonging on, etc), we didn’t see it. I mean, they probably were, but teens are sneaky little buggers.

Feature image by Wil Stewart; Bottle drinker by Danny Lines ; jenga by Manny Moreno 

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