A special series on adolescent health has just been published in the British medical journal Lancet.

The most impressive parts of this report for me were the effectiveness of two approaches for stopping young people getting into drugs alcohol teen pregnancies and trouble:

[li]Parenting styles that support setting boundaries and standards[/li]
[li]Stopping bullying in schools[/li]

Once again these are huge powerful actions with major health outcomes and they are about how we live our lives locally about how we parent about how we learn to parent about how our local schools look after our children’s safety.

Do all our local schools have anti-bullying programs in place? How effective are they? How deeply committed to achieving no bullying are our schools? Does every child in our community have a way to safely access help if they are being bullied or threatened? Are children helped to identify bullying behaviour and know that it is unacceptable and that they have a right to ask for help? We simply cannot afford to have our children damaged by the awful destructiveness of bullying. And at the same time it is important that they are taught strategies for protecting themselves and seeking help.

How are our local young parents learning to parent? How are they being supported? What access to parenting instruction is there that would encourage them to teach their children to set boundaries and standards for themselves?

A picture comes to my mind of one of our local mothers in a local shopping centre with her young child last week. There was a little furry dog tied to a post outside Coles. The child was attracted to the dog. The mother communicated very clearly to the child: “We look at dogs but don’t touch. We don’t know with other people’s dogs whether they are safe to touch.” The child clearly understood and trusted her mother and looked and didn’t make any attempt to touch. I was very impressed with the whole tone and clarity of the mother’s communication of boundaries to her child.

Some of our local churches give parents support in setting boundaries and standards for their children. An example I found most impressive is our local Uniting Church. While this church is not large its children are outstandingly represented among those with high standards in our local schools – either as elected representatives or for their results. How can such a small community achieve such exceptional outcomes with its children? And they are not the only local church whose children are achieving standards of behaviour that will stand them in good stead in their lives.

Some of our local sports training and scouts and guides are also places where our children can receive support in setting standards for themselves.