The Parent Handbook



This is an online reference book for parents and carers of teenagers (11 to 19 year olds) in Surrey. It includes information and contacts on topics, ranging from alcohol, drugs and substance misuse to support for young carers.

At the end of each topic, you'll find a list of useful contacts.

Alcohol, drugs and substance misuse

A lot of young people will experiment with alcohol and some with drugs and other substances. In most cases it won't lead to addiction or death but there are lots of other dangerous things that can happen, including:

  • accidents
  • poisoning by having too much alcohol or drugs or mixing them together
  • having unwanted or unprotected sex
  • being robbed or attacked
  • getting into fights, driving illegally or committing other crimes.

The video clip below from Drinkaware describes some of the risks of underage drinking, it also explains how to talk to children about alcohol, about how to say no or be responsible with alcohol.

Where to find support:


Many common behaviour issues are an essential part of puberty and growing up. But if your child is getting into trouble or finding it hard to cope, it is important to seek help.

View on YouTube

Where to find support:

Breaking the law

The main aim of the authorities is to guide children away from crime, not to punish them. But once a child reaches 10 years old, they can legally be charged with committing a crime and be subject to the legal process. If found guilty they will have a criminal record. If your child is facing criminal proceedings, you should talk to an experienced advisor, for example someone at the Citizen's Advice Bureau.

Where to find support?


Bullying is behaviour by an individual or group, repeated over time, that intentionally hurts another individual or group, physically or emotionally. Bullying can include:

  • cyber bullying through a mobile phone or online for example email, instant messenger or on social network sites like Facebook (see Internet safety
  • threats or intimidation
  • hitting, pushing, pulling or any unwanted physical contact
  • stealing from someone
  • teasing, name calling or sarcasm
  • spreading rumours
  • not talking to someone and leaving them out

If you're worried about your child, the Family Lives video below, has tips on talking to your child about bullying and getting help.

Where to find support?

Child abuse

Child abuse is any action by another person, adult or child, that causes significant harm to a child.

If you think your child, or any child, is in immediate danger call the Police on 999.

The NSPCC video clip below explains some of the signs to look out for to help keep children safe from harm.

Where to find support?

Child sexual exploitation

Child sexual exploitation is the sexual abuse of a child or young person aged under 18 by an adult who involves them in inappropriate sexual activities either with themselves or another person. This includes through technology, for example being persuaded to post images on the internet or using mobile phones.

The activity often takes place in exchange for money, alcohol, drugs, food, accommodation or presents such as clothing or mobile phones. Victims can be targeted in person or online. A common feature of child sexual exploitation is grooming, where the child or young person doesn't recognise the coercive nature of the relationship and does not see themselves as a victim of exploitation.

This Children's Society video clip highlights, reasons children may become vulnerable to Child sexual exploitation and what forms it might take.

Where to find support?

Depression and anxiety

Most people, children as well as adults, feel low occasionally. When these feelings continue, or dominate and interfere with your whole life, it can become depression. Depression is an illness which is less common in children under 12 years old, but increases after that, affecting one in every 20 teenagers.

Children and young people have all sorts of strong feelings and it's natural for them to feel fearful or worried from time to time. But some develop phobias or severe anxiety, which causes a lot of distress and can seriously affect the way they lead their lives.

If you're worried about your child, there are things you can do to help. The Young Minds Video below, provides details of how you support your child if they're struggling with depression.

Where to find support?

You could also speak to your GP to see what help is available.

Domestic abuse

Physical violence is one type of domestic abuse. But domestic abuse includes any incident or pattern of incidents of controlling, coercive or threatening behaviour between those aged 16 or over. Domestic abuse can affect everyone regardless of race, age, gender or sexuality. If you're worried about your child, these organisations have advice and can offer them support.

The video clip below powerfully illustrates, how Domestic Abuse can take place even in teenage relationships.

Where to find support?

Eating disorders

We all have different eating habits. But eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia and binge eating are complex and there is no one reason why someone develops them.

These disorders can have a severe impact on someone's physical and mental wellbeing. They can affect people at any time in their lives, although young people aged between 12 and 25 are the most likely to be affected.

Eating disorders could mean:

  • eating too much
  • eating too little
  • using harmful ways to get rid of calories.

Where to find support?

You could also speak to your GP for advice and to see what help is available.

Home alone and babysitting

There is no legal age at which you may leave your child at home alone, but it is an offence to leave a child alone if it places them at risk.

You can be prosecuted if you leave your child unsupervised in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury. If you need to leave your child home alone, make sure they are happy to be left and are mature enough to cope if there are problems.

If they aren't confident about being left alone, then don't leave them. The law also doesn't state when young people can look after children.

If a babysitter is under the age of 16, parents remain legally responsible to make sure that their child, and the babysitter, come to no harm. If your child is thought to be at risk because they are not being looked after properly, you could be prosecuted.

Where to find support?

Internet safety

The internet is a big part of most children and young people's lives, from education to entertainment. We can now easily connect with all sorts of people from all over the world who we may not know and may never meet.

There are lots of benefits but it's sometimes easy to forget about the risks. These can include:

  • cyber bullying (see Bullying section)
  • losing control of private images or information
  • exploitation and grooming (see Child sexual exploitation and grooming section)
  • seeing disturbing information or images
  • accessing unsuitable material
  • Radicalisation (see Radicalisation section)
  • opening or sharing files that contain virus software.

These dangers are present in all devices that connect to the internet, like smart TVs and phones. And in all online activities, including games, online dating and messaging apps (like WhatsApp or Snapchat) as well as email, social media and file sharing. The Internet Matters clip below, has tips for parents and carers on supporting teens online.

Where to find support?

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ)

There are a number of complex determining factors involved in someone's sexual orientation. It's important to remember that a person's sexuality is not a choice.

Lots of organisations offer advice and support to young people who may experience discrimination, including bullying. There are also organisations who can support parents and other family members who may have difficulty in understanding or coming to terms with their child's sexuality.

Where to find support?

Personal safety outside the home

Most young people think they know how to stay safe when they're out and about, but it's always worth reminding them.

Whether they're walking the dog or going for a night out, these organisations have information about how young people can avoid situations where they may be more vulnerable to violent or sexual assault.

Where to find support?

Private fostering

Private fostering is when a child or young person under the age of 16 (or under 18 if they are disabled), is cared for and provided with accommodation for 28 days or more, in one year, by an adult who does not have parental responsibility or who is not a close relative.

You may be in a private fostering situation if you are caring for or providing accommodation for a child because:

  • Their parents live abroad and have sent them to this country for education or health care
  • Their parents work or study for long and/or antisocial hours
  • Their parents have separated or divorced or because of other problems at home
  • They are your son or daughter's girlfriend or boyfriend.

The law requires parents, private foster carers and professionals to tell Surrey County Council of any proposed private fostering arrangement six to 13 weeks before it starts. Or immediately if the arrangement is starting within six weeks or is an existing arrangement.

This guide (though for practitioners) gives helpful information about what private fostering is and the reasons children may come to be privately fostered.

Where to find support?


You might think that your child would never be involved in terrorism, but at every age children and young people can be influenced by people who don't have their best interests at heart.

Some children are more susceptible to Radicalisation. They might be struggling with their identity or be isolated from peer groups or UK culture. Personal circumstances can play a part too, if a child has low self-esteem, there are family tensions or if they have experience of a traumatic event.

Other factors like local community tensions or events affecting their country or region of origin are also important to think about.

Where to find support?

School attendance

There are a number of reasons why children miss school, but it could be a sign they're having problems.

Such as:

  • Stress, particularly around exam time
  • Bullying (see Bullying section)
  • Health, including mental health (see Depression and anxiety, section)
  • Educational needs not being met – either too challenging or not challenging enough.

Parents and carers have a legal responsibility for making sure their children get an education and can be prosecuted if their child does not go to school.

The Family Lives video clip below provides tips for managing school refusal

Where to find support?

If you're worried about your child's attendance speak to their school.

Self harm

Self harm is a term used when someone injures or harms themselves on purpose. This may include overdosing, hitting, cutting, burning, hair pulling and scratching.

Children and young people may self-harm as a way of coping with overwhelming emotions. They may not understand why they are doing it, which can make it even more difficult for parents to understand.

The Mind video below shares experiences of self-harm, what causes it, how it feels and how they think people can help.

Where to find support?

You could also speak to your GP for advice and to see what help is available.

Sexual health and relationships

Talking frankly about sex helps young people make safe decisions. Although tricky these conversations will help them to feel confident enough to talk about sex, relationships and contraception. This will help protect them from sexually transmitted infections (STI) and unwanted pregnancy and it can also help them set boundaries they are comfortable with.

Where to find support?

Young carers

Young carers are children or young people (under 18 years old) who provide regular and on-going care and emotional support to a family member who is physically or mentally ill, disabled or misuses substances. There's sometimes a mistaken belief that a child will be taken into care if professionals are told. But the reality is that the family is likely to get more help.

Caring responsibilities can impact on a young person's wellbeing so it's important they have the right support. The video below from Action for Carers describes the experience and impact of being a young carer.

Where to find support?

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