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When I came Out…

Marcus // 19 // gay

Such an anticlimax! After expecting the world to cave in, it was actually no big deal, and I was super thankful for that. I told my best mate at the time, and he was

At puberty, when I was about 12 or 13.
I totally freaked out. It was really hard to accept things were going to be different for me. I thought I’d get married and have kids.

Absolutely. I became more and more depressed and desperately tried to think of ways that I could possibly change my orientation. I was self-harming at this stage.

I think I’m lucky to have been born at a time when people can live openly.

I was so worried that I’d disappoint them. Family is the most important thing to me and to lose that would be devastating. When I did tell them, when I was 13, it
was such a relief that I could be myself around them.

Initially they had doubt … I can understand where they were coming from. But soon they were like: “When are you going to bring a boy around?”

Life’s a Gamble

A small but worrying number of boys and girls start gambling before they turn 18, and some of them develop problems.

Between 0.2 and 4.4 per cent of Australian adolescents are already problem gamblers.

Research shows that problem gambling risk factors can be related to socio-demographic, personality, psychosocial, substance abuse, gambling, peer, school, and family factors.

Some of these common risk factors include being male, low socio-economic status, extraversion, non-conformity, impulsivity, sensation seeking, under controlled temperament, depressive symptoms, anxiety, impaired coping, life stress, ADHD, substance use, risk-taking, antisocial behaviour, violence, exposure to gambling, peer pressure, school difficulties and family problems.

Deakin University School of Psychology Lecturer Dr Stephanie Merkouris says parents and carers can reduce the risk by talking to young people, looking for problems, limiting internet use and thinking about family attitudes towards gambling and gambling-related activities.

Go to deakin.edu.au

Gamblers Help telephone line: 1800 858 858

Gamblers Help youth telephone line: 1800 262 376

Online support: www.gamblinghelponline.org.au 

Raising children: www.raisingchildren.net.au/articles/gambling.html

How Do I Spot Gambling Problems?

  • Sudden changes in the amount of money your child has
  • Changes in sleep pattern
  • Changes in mood
  • School absences or falling marks at school
  • Decreased social activities and friends (or complete withdrawal)
  • Preoccupation with: sports, internet, odds, video arcades, simulated gambling apps and games
  • Secrecy about gambling or denial

Protective Factors for Youth Gambling Problems

  • Female gender
  • Adaptive coping strategies
  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Well-being
  • Self-monitoring
  • Personal competence
  • Resilience
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Social competence
  • Social support
  • Social bonding
  • School connnectedness
  • Understanding of randomness
  • Parental monitoring
  • Family cohesion

Young People & Gambling






Respect Tips

Encouraging Respectful Behaviour in Teenagers

  • Take time to actively listen.
  • Set clear rules about behaviour.
  • Follow up broken rules calmly, firmly and consistently. 
  • Encourage self-reflection.
  • Try to be a positive role model.
  • Choose your battles.
  • Take your child seriously.
  • Let go of the wheel sometimes.
  • Tackle problems in a positive way.
  • Praise your child.
  • Plan ahead for difficult conversations.
  • Keep “topping up” your relationship with fun times and support.
  • Share your feelings and be honest.
  • Learn to live with mistakes.
  • Look for ways to stay connected
  • Respect your child’s need for privacy.
  • Encourage a sense of belonging.
  • Keep promises.
  • Have realistic expectations.
  • Look for the funny side of things.

For more  information visit raisingchildren.net.au, the Australian parenting website

Signs Someone is Being Cyber-Bullied

  • Abnormal withdrawal from social activities, friends and/or family
  • Sudden lack of interest in using their mobile phone, computer or other devices
  • Disinterest or avoidance in attending school, sports, or other recreational activities
  • Nervous or jumpy when a text message or email is received
  • Extreme sleeping behaviour (sleeping a lot more or staying awake all night)
  • Self-harming behaviours
  • Moodiness and abnormal changes in behaviour

*Source: ‘Rosie’, a Dugdale Trust for Women & Girls national harm prevention initiative. www.rosie.org.au

The Behaviour Interventionist

Clinical psychotherapist Frank Zoumboulis says ‘helicopter’ or ‘tow-truck’ parenting affects the emotional development and well-being of young people.

Helicopter parents take an overactive and excessive interest in their child’s life. All parents want the best for their child but they can become over-involved, smothering, overbearing, interfering and over-controlling. I also call them tow-truck parents because they wait for an accident to happen and then steam in and clear up the mess.

“They have clear opinions about who is the right teacher for their child, what sport they should play, they want their child to be in the popular group and they offer disproportionate assistance, rather than allowing their teenager space. These parents don’t enjoy uncertainty, so they over-prepare and supervise intensely and interfere with their child’s opportunity to do something for themselves and to deal with the natural consequences of their actions. 

“In the 1940s and 1950s the approach to parenting was not to smother or spoil a child. John Bowlby was a contemporary British psychiatrist and child-development specialist who saw attachment as complementary to exploration. He said a child needed to feel secure enough and good enough about themselves to explore, but helicopter parents shut down exploration. They dampen a child’s confidence and interfere with their ability to develop resilience and to find their own feet. Kids end up ill-equipped to deal with basic day-to-day stuff, they can’t manage emotional responses and they are super-dependent on the parent. In my practice, I’ll see a 16-year-old with their parent and the parent completes the child’s sentences and answers their questions for them. 

“Some parents don’t risk a child participating in something because they feel their child may fail, but children need to experience failure to thrive.”

“Helicopter parenting isn’t to be confused with parents who are present – young people need a present parent. That’s a parent who can manage their own anxiety so when their child challenges their authority or questions them, that parent doesn’t go into a meltdown. A present parent is one who listens to their child because when your child talks, it encourages them to develop independent thoughts and they begin to have some critical thinking skills. Give your child some time with a problem so they can try and solve it themselves while making it clear you are available and allow them to come to you when they need help. 

“Some parents don’t risk a child participating in something because they feel their child may fail, but children need to experience failure to thrive. They need to sit with the burden of upset. Helicopter parenting alleviates that burden of suffering, but this interferes with a child’s ability to develop their own experience of struggle and success, or struggle and trauma and then recovery. 

“When your child feels hurt or defeated, sit with them and let them feel it and then your child will move on. Parents think that when a child is hurt and they fail at something that it is the beginning of a downhill slide and that their child will keep going downhill – they don’t. A child sits with it for a while and then moves on to the next thing. Parents are more likely to be the ones who catastrophise, but that’s about their anxiety of being a good enough mother or father.

“Ask yourself ‘how much am I hovering?’. Ask someone who knows you and who is prepared to tell you the truth. Often parents don’t realise they’re stifling their child’s potential for greater development. So be more of an observer rather than a doer and remember that your child needs to master the ordinary to be extraordinary.”


While anxiety is normal, it can develop into a disorder.

Most of us feel anxious at times. But for some people the anxiety is serious enough to negatively affect their enjoyment of life. Almost 7 per cent of Australian children and adolescents – or 278,000 – have an anxiety disorder. Most are considered mild.

Anxiety disorders generally include social phobia, separation anxiety, generalised anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorder. A major Australian study* found that these affected 6.9 per cent of those aged four to 17. There was little difference in prevalence between girls and boys.

Young people in the most-disadvantaged socioeconomic group (10.4 per cent) were twice as likely to have an anxiety disorder than those in the least-disadvantaged group (5.3 per cent). 

Young people with an anxiety issue need support to cope with the challenges they face, such as doing well in year 12, taking on leadership roles at a younger age and pressure to feel accepted on social media. Parents must be alert for signs that they are not coping and seek professional help if needed.

Risk Factors

  • A family history of anxiety;
  • Having a perfectionistic personality;
  • Lack of confidence or self-esteem;
  • Family and relationship problems;
  • Having a controlling or over-protective parent, or parents who are often critical or negative in their parenting style;
  • Death or loss of a loved one;
  • A traumatic or negative life experience;
  • Verbal, sexual, physical or emotional abuse or trauma;
  • Serious physical illness; and
  • Girls, or women, are more likely to develop anxiety disorders.

Anxiety Disorders

Social Phobia

Intense anxiety caused by social situations leading up to and during the event, such as going out with friends or giving a speech.

Separation Anxiety

An overwhelming fear of being parted from parents, carers or those to whom someone has a strong attachment.

Generalised Anxiety

Excessive anxiety and worry about common issues, such as family or friends, health, work, money or forgetting important appointments.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

An obsessive compulsion to do something, such as checking doors and windows to see if they are locked, or ensuring everything is orderly in cupboards and drawers.

Tips for Parents

  • Anxiety is normal. Excessive anxiety is not.
  • Young people with genuine anxiety disorders are not naughty or defiant.
  • Look for persistent physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, vomiting, tiredness as well
    as missing school and avoiding social activities.
  • If the anxiety relates to a mental-health disorder such as generalised anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, phobias, social anxiety and panic attacks, seek professional help.
  • Teaching and modelling resilience can help young people cope with anxiety.
  • Admit when you are anxious; no one is perfect.

Talking About Depression | Parent Tips

  • Choose a time when the young person is relaxed and unlikely to be distracted. 
  • Be natural and don’t overthink it. Start by sharing your concern. 
  • Be prepared for rejection. If they don’t want to talk, try again later. 
  • Check your emotions and be realistic, while telling them you care and want to help. 
  • Discuss what you have noticed and why you are concerned. 
  • Ask questions about how they feel. 
  • Let them guide the conversation.  
  • Tell them it is important to discuss their feelings. 
  • Try to understand their reaction and help them to feel at ease. Let them know that crying is OK.
  • Seek a balance between helping and encouraging their independence. 
  • Provide information about depression and the types of help available.
  • Respect their privacy but explain the benefits of telling trusted people. Let them know that professional help is confidential and easy to access.

Other Helpful Tips:


Realistic Ways to Talk to Teens About Alcohol

With everything parents worry about, it may surprise you to learn than Australian teenagers generally drink less alcohol today than previous generations did.

Even so, many of us struggle to hit the right note when talking about alcohol with teenage children.

We’ve put together some basic information to help you find the right words.

How much is too much alcohol?

National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines, which are under review, recommend that no alcohol is the best option for those under 18. Experts also advise parents and carers to model safe behaviours at home and while socialising.

Many don’t realise the influence their own habits can have. It is also important to be informed about the possible risks and be aware that your child is learning from your behaviour.

What if there’s a problem?

Psychologist Paula Ross says if you suspect your child may have a drug or alcohol problem, don’t make accusations but subtly note any behaviour changes.

“It can be helpful if parents and family members don’t jump to conclusions but instead start a conversation with their child about what might be happening — ‘I notice this, this and this. What is going on?'” she says.

Ms Ross says to stay calm and think about who is best placed to approach your teen empathetically. Expectations must also be realistic.

“You won’t have one conversation and find that your young person says, ‘You’re right, I’ll stop,'” she says.

Ms Ross says there is some debate around whether you disclose your own past (or present) substance use.

“Parents need to walk the line between disclosure with the aim of letting a child know that you understand, versus how much of your disclosure will your child hear as permission-giving,” she says.

Keeping it open and honest

Writer Cheryl Critchley has always spoken openly about alcohol with her children Jess, 21, Bec, 19, and Ben, 17.

“I don’t drink but my husband loves his beer,” she says.

“Our kids know about the pros and cons of drinking and we’ve discussed what we did at their age. We’ve talked about why people feel the need to drink, the dangers of overdoing it, and how alcohol is socially acceptable despite the harm it can cause.

“We also discuss the importance of looking out for each other around alcohol, which Jess and her friends do. She likes to drink but hasn’t had any issues.

“This year has been strange for Bec as she — and others her age — have had their socialising curtailed by COVID-19 restrictions. She has had a few drinks but decided it’s not much fun doing it by Facetime.

“By Ben’s age, most of our generation was drinking. He hasn’t had much if any alcohol yet. Ben likes energy drinks, so we’ve discussed them not having alcohol but being full of caffeine and sugar.”

Signs of misuse

There are no definitive warning signs of alcohol misuse. But a range of signs and behaviours that, combined, may indicate excessive drinking include:

  • Repeated health complaints
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Changes in mood, especially irritability
  • Starting arguments, withdrawing from the family or breaking family rules
  • Dropping grades, frequent school absences or discipline problems at school
  • Changes in social activities and social groups

Learning good habits

When your children are old enough to drink, encourage them to do so responsibly.

The Australian Government’s alcohol and young people page has practical advice around the law, risks and finding help if needed. For example, to avoid or reduce alcohol intake while out you can:

  • Say no to drinks — prepare and practise your responses before you head out
  • Drink something non-alcoholic like a mocktail
  • Choose low-strength alcohol
  • Count standard drinks to keep track
  • Set a limit for yourself

Starting that conversation

Headspace early psychosis services manager Kirsten Cleland says kids can feel uncomfortable speaking about tricky issues, so parents and carers should make themselves available.

“It’s important that you take this opportunity to engage with your young person, as this is the moment when they have come to you for help,” she says.

Ms Cleland says we should ask whether our child wants us to listen or fix something for them, with the aim of enabling them to have a degree of responsibility around decision-making.

“The decision might not be the one we would like, and it might blow up in their face, but as long as it’s not going to do harm then it’s a learning opportunity,” she says.

If you or a family member need help with alcohol issues:

Teens 101 Q&A

How is parenting a teen different from parenting a younger child?

Parenting children of all ages can be hard, but teenagers are often particularly challenging. As well as issues surrounding physical and emotional development, today’s teens must also navigate the online world. The more parents understand about adolescence, the better chance they have of successfully communicating with and guiding their teens through this important time in their lives.

What are the top five biggest mistakes parents make when parenting a teen?

All parents make mistakes and that’s to be expected – none of us are perfect. With teenagers, these may include:

  • Trying to be their friend
  • Too much or not enough discipline
  • Pressuring them to perform
  • Assuming that they don’t want to talk
  • Banning technology as  punishment

How can parents alter their parenting approach to be more effective?

Each child is different, so parents need to learn about their needs and educate themselves about what has worked for others over many years. The advice of qualified experts can be useful in guiding your approach, but your gut feeling and knowledge of your own child are also crucial. For example, an introverted teenager needs a different approach to one who is extroverted.

What do teenagers need most from their parents during their teen years?

Above all else, unconditional love, empathy and support. But teenagers also need and seek boundaries and guidance as they naturally try to assert their independence. The key is balancing these elements and encouraging honest and open communication.

How would Teens 101 help parents?

Modern parenting is a combination of instinct and education. In a fast-changing world, most parents and carers want some help with the many challenges parenting presents, such as deciding how much technology is too much. Teens 101 is full of expert advice, the latest research and case studies that are designed to help educate parents and start important conversations with their teenagers.

Everything You Need To Know About Teenagers

Everything you need to know about teenagers – and more 

Teens 101 tackles drugs, social media, sex, mental health, and respect

Parenting teenagers is more challenging than ever in the coronavirus (COVID-19) age. 

The usual issues such as anxiety, experimentation, peer pressure and cyber bullying, have in many cases been compounded by the global pandemic and resulting social isolation.

Now, more than ever, parents are looking for support and guidance. Known for its factual and non-preachy guides Drugs 101, Social Media 101, Sex 101, Mental Health 101 and Respect 101, Parent Guides has combined them to produce a compendium, Teens 101.  

The 180-page reference book draws upon the latest research, expert advice, and practical resources to help parents and carers navigate the teen years and start important conversations with their children. No holds are barred, and no topic is shirked.

“We tell it how it is,” says founder and Melbourne media identity Eileen Berry. “We inform parents and carers about what drugs their kids might take, what they are doing online, how likely they are to be having sex and, most importantly, how to discuss all this rationally with them.

Teens 101 covers all the bases and will be a valuable resource for parents, carers, schools, universities and other organisations that support families. Our goal is to spark meaningful conversations between parents, carers and their young people.”

Parent Guides is a not-for-profit organisation that has provided resources for nearly six years. The guides help parents and carers educate themselves about teen issues, and in some cases have prompted expert panel nights at schools.

The new compendium resource is ideal for schools, universities, libraries, and family support organisations. Special bundle packages have been developed to make them affordable.

“We want as many families as possible to benefit,” Eileen says. “With COVID-19 potentially amplifying issues faced by teenagers, practical and useful advice from respected experts is more important than ever.”

For more details: Eileen Berry, Parent Guides Founder & Ph: 0407 542 655 

Contact us via the contact form.