Setting the Scene for Summer: keeping teens safe

This week’s blog post is submitted by guest contributor, Julie Greene. We hope you enjoy her post and look forward to future posts from Julie.

My parents worked full-time when I was growing up in Florida, and I can remember long summer days hanging out with my friends at the pool or on the beach.  We were pretty good teens, but were definitely tempted to get into trouble now and then when opportunity arose!

A generation later, more kids are spending summers without close parental supervision.  And they are still tempted to get into trouble now and then!  Not surprisingly, surveys show that vacation months have the highest occurrence of first-time alcohol use among young people.  In fact, about 32% of youth who drink initiated their alcohol use during the summer (National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 2004). It’s tempting to think, “What’s the big deal?” but research shows clearly that people who initiate alcohol use at an early age (15 or younger)are as much as five times more likely to develop alcohol dependence or abuse (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration).

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There are several things we can do to reduce this risk for our teens.  The most significant is to work closely with our kids to establish clear rules around unsupervised time.  What are their chores and responsibilities while you are gone?  Kids that have the opportunity to contribute to your household are less likely to get into trouble.  Do they understand your expectations surrounding drinking and other risky behaviors?  We all know that kids don’t always listen, but those who know your expectations are much more likely to. Here are some additional safe summer tips for parents:

  • Know where your teen is at all times, and who they are with
  • Check-in periodically by phone or text, or through another adult
  • Get to know the parents of your teen’s friends.  Talk to them and let them know your family rules.
  • Be physically present when you can.  When you can’t, try asking a neighbor or other adult to check-in occasionally.
  • Consider getting rid of alcohol during times that your kids will be home by themselves.  If you do have alcohol in your home, be sure to lock it up.

Have a great summer and take time to have fun with your teen!  Kids who are close to their parents are more likely to make positive choices.

Julie is a mental health specialist for the Linn County Alcohol & Drug Program.  She facilities parenting education groups for clients in recovery from substance use.  Julie has a son in high school and a daughter in college.