Hi Paul, I desperately want to go to Schoolies on the Gold Coast (all my friends are going!) but my parents are convinced that it is incredibly dangerous and they are not going to allow me to go. When you spoke at our school you said that it wasn't as bad as the media make it out to be - I want my parents to get that message. Can you give me any advice on how to convince them that it is not as dangerous as they think and why I should be able to go?
I get so many emails asking for my advice around Schoolies - some of them are from young people, like yourself, asking for tips on how to convince their parents they should be able to go, while the others are from Mums and Dads (usually Mums!) who are absolutely terrified about letting their son or daughter go to the event, requesting advice on what they should do. These parents want their teens to have a great time with their friends at this important time in their lives, aware that they are young adults and they can't protect them forever, but are still very worried about what they've seen and heard about the Schoolies phenomenon.
I can't give you any guaranteed advice on how to change your parent's mind on this issue but I'll say to you what I say to all young people when they ask me this question - why do you think your parents have made this decision? Once you've worked that out and you understand their thought processes, you may be able to make some inroads ...
Essentially, the only reason a parent would not allow their son or daughter to travel to Schoolies is because they are worried for their safety - that's it, pure and simple - they're worried that something may happen to you! If that is the case, it's up to you to prove to them that you have thought things through and you can address all their safety concerns. The problem is that most young people can't do that - not a thought has been given to what can go wrong (I can't believe how many Year 12s I meet who haven't even seen their accommodation contract for where they're staying and have absolutely no idea about the rules that they have to follow when they get there!) and they certainly haven't put together any safety plans.
My advice is this - if you want to go to the Gold Coast, do a basic 'risk assessment' for your visit, i.e., what could potentially go wrong as you travel there and when you arrive? Try to answer questions like - how are you going to get there? Where would you stay? What type of rules are there around alcohol at the accommodation you are planning to stay at? What is the story around balconies at this hotel? Who are you going with? If something went wrong, who would you call? Try to cover as much as possible and once you have it reasonably well-planned, ask your parents if you can sit down and discuss the information you have collected. If you put some work into this and then show your parents what you have done, at the very least they will be impressed with your efforts. As I said, what you want to show them is that you have addressed their concerns - yes, Schoolies can be a dangerous place, but you are aware of that and have put things into place to make the experience as safe as possible.
You can always use my Schoolies checklist that is on my website to help you with the things to think about when you put together your plan.
If that doesn't work you can always try a compromise, such as seeing if they will agree to a shorter trip, i.e., instead of the week, you just travel up to the Gold Coast for 2-3 days. Providing a safety plan and offering a compromise clearly shows your parents that this is something you really want to do, but also demonstrates that you have thought about it, as well as great maturity.
I can't offer you any guarantees here but let me assure you that if your parents don't let you go, it isn't because they're trying to 'ruin your life', it's just that they care an awful lot! Prove to them you understand that and offer to work with them and you may be able to move them, just a little! Good luck!