ADULTS ON HOLIDAY
Many adults see alcohol as a natural part of going away on holiday. They might start celebrating with a drink at the airport, and once they’ve reached their destination, it’s often time to raise a glass or two on the balcony.
Not everyone does this, of course, but when they’re away, many adults drink both larger amounts and differently to when they’re at home. So it’s hardly surprising if teenagers think about alcohol in connection with travel. Think about how you view alcohol when you’re on holiday and remember that you’re a role model for your child.
Everyone was drinking like crazy when we went on an All Inclusive. You could just go up to the tap and help yourself to beer. Even the kids were doing it. No one was keeping track.
Sasha, aged 15, Örebro
Most of the big language course travel firms have a total ban on alcohol and narcotics. Anyone caught with drugs will be sent home at their own expense and will not get a refund for the course. But it’s impossible for the organisers to keep an eye on every single teenager, 24/7.
There are, alongside the well-known travel firms, a number of companies specialising in travel for young people, where partying and alcohol are often the main attraction. Most of these travel organisers have a lower age limit of 18, but travelling unaccompanied when you’re under 18 is still possible if you can show a signed authorisation from your parents. Think long and hard if your child asks you for one.
When I was abroad, I could walk into the nearest grocery store and buy spirits and cider. Nobody said anything or stopped me.
Amira, aged 15, Gothenburg
Going to a festival can be a real adventure. Heading off with your friends, seeing your favourite bands, meeting new friends, and maybe sleeping in a tent. But alcohol is a natural part of going to a festival for many people. A number of festivals are also, sponsored by alcohol producers, thereby signalling that alcohol and festivals go hand in hand. Drinking alcohol is often prohibited in the stage areas, but beer, wine, and drinks are sold in different enclosures which implement age limits and checks. But that doesn’t mean that they are the only places where you’ll find people who’ve been drinking. There are a lot of drunken people moving around the stage areas, and alcohol also tends to be close at hand in the camping areas with no one keeping an eye on the young people there.
Every festival has different rules about age limits and alcohol. Find out what the rules are for the festival that your teenager wants to go to. There are also a lot of drug-free events organised specifically for young people. If your teenager is going to a festival, agree on what way you can be in touch. Mobile coverage can sometimes be flaky when there are lots of people in the same place, and loud music can also make it hard to hear the phone ring. So it can be a good idea to agree on times when you can be in touch.
I’d never be allowed to go to a festival. They’re full of drunks and anything could happen.
Moa, aged 15, Umeå
TALK ABOUT THE RISKS
Travelling independently can be both exciting and educational. If you’ve agreed that you child can travel or go to a festival, talk about what might happen and how important it is that they take care of themselves. You also need to make it clear to them that different cultures may have a very different attitude towards alcohol and be considerably harder on drunken young people than would be the case at home. Talk about the sort of things that your teenager may encounter there, such as sexual approaches or harassment, drugs, violence, and theft.
Help your teenager by giving them reasons not to drink. Be clear where you stand and what your concerns are. Your teenager may choose to drink anyway, but studies show that what you say does matter in terms of what happens.
NO, EVERYONE ELSE DOES NOT GET TO GO
Remember – there’s nothing odd about saying, ”No” to a teenager who wants to go on holiday with their friends. You are responsible for your child and saying, ”No” is not cruel, even if their friends’ parents have said, “Yes.” You might also like to think about how often it’s actually true that ”everyone else is allowed to”, or whether that’s just what every teenager says to their hesitant parents. Many parents are worried about their teenagers being excluded from their social group if they don’t go, but it’s by no means certain that this will be the case. No one – however old they are – can do everything, and it might be useful to learn this at an early age.
If you don’t want to let your teenager go to a festival by themselves, why not suggest you go with them? It could be a fun, shared experience, and good for your relationship. You don’t have to tag along with them everywhere they go, but you being there can act as a safety net in case something happens.