First Festival ?
The number of Festivals that have sprung up over the UK is extraordinary – and naturally many teenagers are keen to go.
Often the first festival will be a ‘family friendly‘ one like Bestival and you may be taking your own children, or allowing them to go with parents of friends.
Festivals are a strange hybrid as it feels like one big party where you know and can trust everyone – but, of course, you can’t. Your youngsters may end up in groups with complete strangers or over 18s, and many of the horror stories we hear from parents often occurred when they’re at the same event and didn’t know what was going on! This is true at big family celebrations too, where you’re so busy looking after your guests, you don’t notice the teenagers sneaking booze and disappearing off to the end of the garden! We have drawn up a few tips:
Teenagers going to festivals with parents, carers or other adults
If you’re going to the festival as a family and the teenagers want to go and do their own thing, make sure they’re always with a sibling or friend and have regular meet up times during the day and evening. Walkie-talkies are good for keeping in touch and allow you to stay in contact easily without worrying about a phone. Otherwise, make sure they have a cheap pay as you go phone and it’s worth investing in a solar or wind up charger too.
If your kids are going with a friend’s parents don’t shy away from asking questions around how they’ll be monitored and about booze and other substances. Their values might be different from yours, so it’s important they know what is important to you.
You /they will be keen on having a good time too and may lose track of the time or where the youngsters are once it’s late. Set a plan that you stick to and don’t think, just because you’ve asked them to go back to the tent and go to sleep while you’re still raving, that this will happen! Check up on them regularly or ideally, an adult should stay behind with them.
Load up with as much light nutritious food as you can, like cereal bars, dried fruit and nuts – take frozen milk, cereal, bread, things like tinned tuna and ham and frozen soft drinks to save on high food and drink costs on site.
If they’re going with friends and no parents/carers, a few things to insist on:
- Don’t let them take any valuable devices. Invest in cheap pay as you go phones – the battery will last longer and it’s worth having a wind up or solar charger too – no excuses then about running out of juice and being in contact with you regularly.
- Take plenty of sun cream, hats, wellies and a waterproof.
- We know lugging heavy things to a camping spot can be a real pain, but food and soft drinks are really expensive, so take light things like cereal bars, dried fruit, frozen water and milk (keeps your stuff cool for a while).
- If it’s hot, drinking alcohol is dehydrating, and if they’re drinking they’re more likely to forget sun protection. A combination of heat/sunstroke/sunburn and dehydration will ruin their fun.
- They’re just as likely to get sun burnt if it’s overcast too, so try and find a trendy hat that they’ll wear!
- Just because they’re in a party atmosphere, remind them not to trust people they don’t know well or be tempted to try things offered by ‘new friends’.
- Finally, if you know other people – whether older young people or your own friends, who are going to the festival, ask if it would be ok to give their number to your child and ask if they’d mind keeping an occasional eye out for you! Just your youngsters knowing someone is looking out for them can moderate behaviour, or knowing they can meet up for some nourishing food might be welcome.
Have your teenagers been to festivals this Summer?
An innovative and controversial approach to drugs
At the AET our concern is primarily early and excess use of alcohol by youngsters, but what we call ‘poly use’ is often a topic of concern, whereby teenagers may drink and experiment with other substances. Festivals are a prime location for both availability and trying things for the first time. In this article by Fiona Spargo-Mabbs, who tragically lost her 16 year old son to MDMA, we hear about how drugs are being tested at festivals by The Loop. As Fiona concludes, however ‘Always controversial because of concerns it condones drug use, or sends the message this makes drug taking safe, this is nevertheless the last line of defence for anyone with drugs and an intention to take them, for whatever reason. If Dan could have had his bag of MDMA tested and found it was twelve times stronger than had caused fatality in the past, perhaps he’d still be here.
Fiona comments “The counsellors I spoke to reinforced what all the reports of The Loops’ work had said, that around one in five people decide not to take their drugs at all when they know what’s in them and have spoken to their team, and about half decide to take less, or take their drugs more slowly. Drug-related harms are significantly lower at the festivals they’ve been at, and that has to be a good thing. The first line of defence, however – good, comprehensive, age-appropriate, evidence-based drug education – remains absolutely essential. With this behind them before they even set off, festival goers arrive better armed to make choices that keep them safe from harm.”