Summer is upon us which means that kids are out of school and have a lot of free unstructured time. Do you know that summer is peak time for teens to try drugs and alcohol? Yes, that right. More teenagers start drinking and smoking cigarettes and marijuana in June and July than in any other months, U.S. health officials say. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) in a 2012 study they conducted for the years of 2002-2012, they found that on an average day in June and July more than 11,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 used alcohol for the first time. Throughout the rest of the year, the daily average for first-time alcohol use ranged from 5,000-8,000. In terms of first-time use of marijuana, more than 4,500 youth start using it on an average day in June and July, as opposed to about 3, 000 to 4, 000 youths during the other months.
With this said, it is imperative that parents of teens create and implement a Summer Plan of Action to reduce at-risk behaviors. Here are some measures that should be considered when formulating your plan:
- Make clear expectations for your children not to drink or use drugs, regardless of the company they hold or the circumstances they are in. Repeat this message often.
- Supervise tweens and even older teens as much as possible. Set house rules for who is allowed and not allowed to be in your home when you are not. Then check in regularly.
- Know where your children are, who they are and what their game-plan is at all times. And if any part of the plan changes along the way, make it a rule that they check-in to let you know.
- If you know work and other obligations will be pulling you away daily, consider hiring a college-age “buddy” to check-in and/or hang out with your children for a period of time each week.
- BEWARE of the summer parties and do NOT allow your children to attend one where underage drinking is planned, even under the “agreement” that they will not partake.
- If your are at a party and alcohol or other drugs come out, they must know to exit as quickly as possible and they must be able to count on calling you day or night for a safe get away.
- Lead by example. Show your children that a fun, summer party does not have to include alcohol. And if you choose to have a drink at a gathering, drink in moderation and let your children see that you are not driving. For better or worse they are watching and learning.
- Remind them they are never to ride in a car, boat, or any other motor vehicle with a driver who is under the influence of any substance. That includes adult drivers as well.
- Get to know your children’s friends and their parents. You may be surprised to learn that some families are not on the same page as you when it comes to preventing underage drinking and smoking. And in that case, certain boundaries will need to be set to protect your children.
- Help them to create some structure to their days, whether it is getting a fun part-time summer job, volunteering, taking part in an educational class or workshop or enrolling in a camp (there are so many to choose – sports, band, art, music, adventure camps etc.). Help them discover what interests them!
Sources: HealthDay: Summer is peak time for teens to try drugs, alcohol: Report. July 2012.
Narconon: Keeping your teen drug and alcohol free this summer. Stop Teen Drugs: Why a busy summer might be the best thing for your teen. May 2013