“Summertime and the living is easy…”
Well, not when you have teens and especially not if you work outside the home.
The transition from school to summertime provides new opportunities for teens — and it can be challenging for some adolescents to cope with the change. Studies show that teens who haven’t tried drugs or alcohol are more likely to start during times of transition in order to deal with stress. But don’t worry — while change is a part of life, risky behavior, like drug and alcohol use, doesn’t have to be.
You can’t control the changes that impact your teen, but you can pay attention to her feelings, concerns and needs. Conversations are one of the most powerful tools parents can use to connect with — and protect — their children. Here are seven ways parents can help deter their teen from engaging in risky behaviors during the free time they’ll have this summer:
1. Work Up a List of What They Can Do Without Asking Permission
As a mom, I know that it can be frustrating for teens when they’re not being able to reach a parent at work in order to ask permission to go to a friend’s house, the movies or the beach. It can be equally frustrating for the parent whose employer frowns on personal phone, text or email interruptions. To address this conflict, sit down with your teen to talk about the kinds of activities they may do without your explicit permission. The condition is they leave a note or send you a text that tells you where/what they are doing, with whom, the time of departure and their estimated time of return.
With some 200 million websites worldwide, Facebook, YouTube, and any number of other internet enticements, telling your teen that you are adding controls and a history tracker to your computer can help. This allows you to check (and them to know you are checking) where they are and have been online.
3. Know What’s in the Cabinet
It’s important to track the alcohol you have in the house - whether that’s in the fridge, liquor cabinet, garage, hall cupboard or wine cellar. Not necessarily because you are concerned your teen will consume alcohol (or collect quantities from various liquor bottles to fill their 12 ounce water bottle) but to help him or her avoid peer pressure to do so. The same is true of the medicine cabinet, your purse or the bathroom drawer. Also, with one in five teenagers abusing pain medication, it’s important for parents to monitor and secure all prescription bottles and pill packets in the house. As well as dispose of all expired medications to decrease the opportunity for your teen or their friends to abuse your medications.
4. Establish That Periodically Throughout the Day You Must “TALK”
Not text, but talk. This was one of my daughter’s suggestions. A parent can tell when there is a change in their child’s voice, which likely will not come through in a text, and that voice change can be a signal that something is amiss. My daughter explained that knowing that a phone call was expected of her made her think about her actions and the consequences more often.
5. Take the Spare Car Keys to Work (or track the mileage)
Just like the computer controls, knowing that you are tracking the mileage (or taking the spare keys to work) removes the temptation to “borrow” the family car.
6. Know Who Your Teen’s Summer Friends Are
Friendships can change once school is out. Some friends may go off to camp or at a summer job, while new kids are suddenly available to hang out. Knowing who your teen’s current friends are will give you the opportunity to talk to those friends’ parents in order to coordinate oversight while you’re both at work.
7. Follow-up on Statements That Don’t Ring True
“It’s not mine. I’m just keeping it for a friend.” Never believe these kinds of statements outright. Talk to that friend’s parents. A friend that asks your teen to hold drugs or alcohol for them is not a friend to have because obviously that teen knows it’s wrong, or they would hold it at their own house. Trust your instincts — chances are if you suspect your child is using drugs then she probably is or something else is going on.
Some of these suggestions may feel like you’re sending the message that you don’t trust your teen. But, in actuality, by reducing the opportunities for your teens to lie or go along with the crowd during adolescence, we strengthen trust all around.