Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Summertime is Risky Business

Summertime…..and the going is easy. School is out. Kids are home. Most extracurricular activities are on hiatus. So what are teenagers doing with their time over the summer months? Most adolescents have too much free, unsupervised time on their hands. That can lead to problems.

"Seasonality of Youth's First-Time Use of Marijuana, Cigarettes or Alcohol," from the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows a 40 percent increase in first-time youth marijuana use during June and July, compared to the rest of the year. Each day in June and July an average of 6,300 youths try marijuana for the first time. The number of new underage drinkers and cigarette smokers also jumps during the summer months.

What can parents do to reduce the risk of underage drinking and drug use?
Teens are less likely to use drugs, alcohol, and tobacco if their parents set clear rules about these risky behaviors. According to recent research, when a young person decides whether or not to use drugs, a crucial consideration is: What will my parents think?

If you make your position on drug use clear and set rules and consequences for breaking them in advance, your teen is less likely to step over that line.

Here are some helpful tips from Parents: The Anti-Drug. (

1. Don’t make empty threats. But be careful not to impose harsh or unexpected new punishments either. Stick to your original plan and show your teen there will be fair consequences for their actions.

2. Reprimands should involve mild, negative consequences. Taking away privileges or grounding teens for a weekend typically fit the bill. Overly severe punishments can undermine the parent-child relationship and lead to rebellious

3. Set a curfew and enforce it strictly. Be consistent on this rule, whether it’s to be home in time for dinner or to be home by midnight on a Saturday night. Be prepared to negotiate for special occasions like prom and holidays.

4. Have teens check in at regular times. If your teen has a cell phone, establish clear rules for using it such as, “When I call you, I expect a call or text back within 10 minutes”.

5. Check in with the party host. If your teen tells you he or she will be at a party or at a friend’s house, do not be afraid to call those parents to make sure adult supervision is in place and no alcohol will be served.

6. Make it easy to leave a party or hangout where drugs are being used. Discuss in advance how to signal you or another adult who will pick your teen up when he or she feels uncomfortable.
7. Establish house rules. If your teen is at home alone for long periods of time, set clear rules about who else is allowed in the house – and who is not. Also be sure to set clear rules about what is off limits – such as the car or liquor cabinet.

8. Recognize good behavior. If your teen is respecting your rules, compliment him or her for behaving admirably instead of focusing on what’s wrong. When you are quicker to praise than to criticize, young people learn to feel good about themselves and develop the self-confidence to trust their own judgment as they grow into adulthood.