Keeping Your Teens Safe and Sober When School’s Out
By Frank Lawson, http://edutude.net/
Summer is the time for fun and relaxation for your teens, but it can also be the time for engaging in risky behavior. Thanks to the ample free time and minimal supervision that teens enjoy over the summer months, many adolescents find themselves in troubling situations they don’t encounter during the school year.
Every day during summer vacation, 11,000 teens drink alcohol for the first time, 5,000 have their first taste of nicotine, and 4,500 try marijuana. This is a huge jump from school year rates, so make sure you talk about the dangers of drugs and alcohol before the last school bell rings. You might feel like your words of caution will have little impact, but statistics show that teens who believe their parents disapprove of substance use are less likely to experiment.
Summer break is also the most dangerous time for teen drivers — teens get into 16 percent more accidents and eight teens die every day during the 100 days following Memorial Day. Since nearly 60 percent of those accidents involve a distracted teen behind the wheel, institute strict rules for your teen drivers. Restrict them to one passenger at a time and take a zero tolerance approach to texting and driving.
One thing you shouldn’t take a zero tolerance policy on is underage drinking: While you don’t want your kids drinking before it’s legal, it’s more important to ensure they don’t drink and drive. Explain to your children that, despite your disapproval, you’ll pick them up if they ever need a safe ride home. That way, you can keep your teen from joining the 23 percent of teens who admit to driving under the influence of alcohol or marijuana.
The good news? Teens are less likely to be a victim of assault during the summer months. However, physical violence against teens peaks when the school year begins, so summer break is a good time to talk to your child about conflict resolution, de-escalation, and when to turn to an authority figure.
Conception rates among teens also plummet during summer vacation. This makes summer the ideal time to broach the talk with your teen, since they’re less likely to be on the defensive. Be sure to cover consent, contraception, and healthy relationships so your child is prepared for what the next school year throws at them.
With these numbers, you’re probably wondering how you can keep your kids safe this summer without resorting to locking them indoors. The best strategy? Keep them busy. Teens who are occupied with fun extracurriculars and family activities are less likely to find themselves in trouble. However, getting teens busy over the summer can be a challenge. Teens can be restless, and toys and trips to the pool don’t quite entertain them like they used to.
Get your teens involved in summer camp for a structured activity and positive role models in the form of college-aged counselors. Camp will help regulate your teen’s schedule so they’re not staying up all night and sleeping all day, and it also keeps them learning so they face less of a struggle when classes resume. Whether you choose drop-in camp sessions, day camp, or sleepaway camp will depend on your family’s summer schedule and budget, but any option is a great way to keep your teen happy and out of trouble.
Volunteering may not be the most appealing option for your teen at first, but volunteering at the right organization can help your teens make friends, learn about potential careers, and build a resume that will impress college admissions officers. Look for opportunities with other engaged young people, like a nature trail clean-up day or peer tutoring program.
Plan family vacations. Time away and free from distractions can help you reconnect with your teen. Building a strong parent-child relationship is central to keeping your teen on the right path. It may also alert you to concerning behavior changes that you hadn’t noticed in your busy everyday life.
No matter what approach you take to keeping your children safe this summer, make sure you find time to talk to your teens about risky behavior, peer pressure, and how they can protect themselves.
Image via Unplash