Research shows that first-time substance use in teens is the highest during the summer months. Without school and homework to occupy their time, they have more opportunity for boredom and often less supervision. Parents may assume their teens are not going to get into trouble because they never have before or because they're old enough to know better.
Unfortunately, these assumptions may leave your teen vulnerable to new temptations or peer pressure. Teens need to have age-appropriate privileges as well as limits. Here are some suggestions to help keep your teens safe from addiction this summer.
Establish ground rules
According to the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority, "Kids that are not regularly monitored are four times more likely to use drugs than kids who are monitored regularly."
Make sure your children feel the safety of your protective eye by setting some summer ground rules. You should know who they're with, where they're going and when they'll be home. They should know your expectations for their behavior when they're out of the house, and you may set up some sort of signal or code word they can call or text to you if they feel uncomfortable and need your help getting home.
Your teen may hate the rules at first, but they'll thank you when they're older. It's important they understand your rules stem from love and concern and not a desire to control their lives.
Get to know their friends
It may not be enough to set rules for your children. It could be the people they associate with will present the worst temptation and not their self-control.
Make a point of inviting each friend over to the house and learn what kind of kid he or she is. Consider looking them up on social media to see what kinds of things they do in their spare time. Get to know their parents, too.
The DWMHA suggests, "Stay connected by communicating with the parent or chaperone at any gathering or event your child might be attending without you." Better yet, volunteer to be a chaperone yourself.
Offer fun summer activities
Teens who struggle to handle stress, powerful emotions or boredom may be more likely to use drugs or alcohol. Help your teens to find ways to fill their time during the summer. Make sure they have options to turn to besides drug use to handle stress or boredom.
Some options for keeping your teens busy could include community sports, volunteering at local hospitals, youth programs or animal shelters; attending a summer camp or learning a new hobby. Busy teens don't tend to be bored teens.
Keep track of prescription drugs
While it's important to be cognizant of what your teens do when they're out of the house, you should know one of the biggest risks to their safety may be in your medicine cabinet.
"Legal drugs such as OxyContin now kill more people than heroin and cocaine combined," according to a press release by the American Marketing Association.
The press release goes on, "While awareness of the dangers of illegal drugs has increased, many teens are still ignorant of the significant physical danger posed by legally prescribed drugs, according to a new study in Journal of Public Policy & Marketing."
You can keep your teen safe by knowing what's in your cabinet. Safely dispose of any unused or expired medications and keep careful count of prescriptions you're using. If your teen needs a pain prescription, talk with the doctor about possible alternatives to strong painkillers that could be habit-forming.
If you notice signs of alcohol or substance use in your teen, you don't have to deal with them alone. Call the Detroit Wayne Mental Health Authority crisis helpline 24/7 at 800-241-4949 or visit dwmha.com for more information on prevention, treatment and recovery services.
Here to talk. Here to help.