Focus on keeping teenagers safe


Central Otago parents are being encouraged to seize opportunities to discuss ways to keep their teenagers safe, as a cluster of information sessions is planned throughout the region.

The events were not being held because of a recent reported increase in drug use in the community, but were timely given police concerns about the issue and trends in society, Alexandra Youth Base team leader Sharleen Stirling-Lindsay said.

Parents were wanting to know more about how to keep their teenagers safe, and the events being held throughout the district would provide new information, ideas and opportunities for families to network and set up their own support systems, Ms Stirling-Lindsay said.

The events are sessions for professionals and presentations for secondary school pupils and members of the public with parenting commentator and neuroscientist Nathan Mikaere Wallis in Cromwell, Wanaka and Alexandra; and an informal “nibbles and a natter” in Alexandra for parents to talk about the teenage “party scene” and how to keep teenagers safe.

Kathy Dedo, a spokeswoman for Wanaka group Parenting4Life, which has been part of the joint project arranging Mr Mikaere Wallis’ visit, said Mr Mikaere Wallis had visited Central Otago several times and had been “extremely popular” with parents, educators and caregivers who valued his “research-based information and no-nonsense” parenting approach.

The founder of Christchurch-based X Factor Education and a former trustee of the Brainwave Trust, Mr Mikaere Wallis was highly regarded for his lectures in human and brain development, language, communication, risk and resilience, she said.

As well as the Alexandra Youth Base, other groups which have supported Mr Mikaere Wallis’ trip are Alexandra police, Central Lakes Trust, Alexandra Rotary, Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago district councils, and the Community Organisation Grants Scheme.

Mr Mikaere Wallis’ two public presentations in Wanaka would focus on different age groups, 0-3 years and teenagers, and his public presentation in Alexandra had no set focus but would possibly be steered by feedback from the audience, Ms Stirling-Lindsay said.

She encouraged parents to attend the sessions to learn more about the young brain and gain ideas and confidence for their own parenting strategies.

“He’s [Mr Mikaere Wallis] coming here make the most of it. When someone of this calibre comes to town we should get involved and use it.”

She said the informal “nibbles and natter” session for parents in Alexandra the first of several about different topics planned by the Alexandra Youth Base would also be useful.

“It’s about conversation starters. We’ve got to keep talking to each other [when it comes to keeping teenagers safe]. It all comes down to communication.”

She said the session would allow people to share stories and gain new ideas about how to keep teenagers safe at parties. The need for collaboration and support had never been greater, with some parents lacking the networks previous generations had, and teenagers constantly facing new pressures in society.

Programme co-ordinator Hannah Cameron Randle said it was hoped the event would create a supportive culture among parents.

“This [the ‘nibbles and natter’ event] is going to make our community stronger. It will let us support each other more and understand what the youth in our community need . . . this will help provide parents with the necessary tools to make sure that everyone feels safe and secure.”

  • Nathan Mikaere Wallis’ public presentations will be held at 7.30pm on November 7 (0-3 years focus) and November 8 (youth focus), both in the Lake Wanaka Centre; and at 7pm on November 9 at the Alexandra Youth Base (all ages focus). For more information about the Wanaka and Cromwell sessions phone 021 130-6276. For more information about the Alexandra presentation, and the Nibbles and Natter at 7pm on November 16 at the Alexandra Youth Base, in Gregg St, go to
  • Alexandra Youth Base team leader Sharleen Stirling-Lindsay is also available for confidential conversations with parents about any topic every Thursday from 9.30am to 11am at Alexandra Community House.

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