The last day of school, when we were children it was a day signaling freedom, the promises of an adventure filled summer free of the responsibilities of school and the tyranny of authority. Now that many of us are parents and grandparents we anticipate the closing of school more with cynicism than excitement. To many of us it begins two months of extra work and worry, who will watch the kids? What will my teenager be doing with all of their free time? How will I keep my child from the dangers of idle time and the increased peer influences which occur during the summer months? Among these worries is the issue of drug use among our children. According to The National Youth Anti Drug Campaign, June July and August are the months which carry the highest risk of first time drug or alcohol use among children and adolescents.
Our best weapon against children and teenagers getting involved with drugs or alcohol is to maintain open lines of communication with them. Parents continue to be the largest moral and behavioral role models for our children, even the teenagers, according to The National Household Survey on Drug Abuse and many other bodies of research. Speaking frankly to our children about the availability, use and prevalence of drug and alcohol with a zero tolerance policy on substance abuse on our behalf is the most effective prevention tool that we have.
Idle hands are the devil’s workshop, this old adage may sound cliche but the message it conveys is true. In addition to maintaining frequent and frank discussions with our children about the dangers of substance abuse it is more important than ever during this time of year to keep them busy. While school is out and normal extracurricular activities are on hold the National Youth Anti Drug Campaign offers the following S-U-M-M-E-R drug-free checklist for parents:
- Set rules
Have you set clear rules and let your teenager know that marijuana use is unacceptable? Two thirds of kids say that upsetting their parents or losing the respect of family and friends is one of the main reasons they don’t smoke marijuana or use other drugs. Set limits with clear consequences for breaking them; praise and reward good behavior.
- Understand and communicate
Have you talked to your child recently about the harmful physical, mental, and social effects of marijuana and other illicit drugs on young users? Young people who learn about the risks of drugs at home are up to 50 percent less likely to try drugs than their peers who learn nothing from their parents. Look for teachable moments in everyday life to keep the conversation ongoing.
- Monitor your teen’s activities and behaviors
Have you checked to see where your teenager is, who he is with, and what he is doing? Teenagers who are not regularly monitored by their parents are four times more likely to use drugs. Check up to make sure they are where they say they are.
- Make sure you stay involved in your teen’s life
Have you talked to your teenager’s coach, employer, and friends lately? Stay in touch with the adult supervisors of your child (camp counselors, coaches, employers) and have them inform you of any changes in your teen.
- Engage your teen in summer activities
Have you helped plan activities to keep your child busy? Research shows that teenagers who are involved in constructive and adult supervised activities are less likely to use drugs.
- Reserve time for family
Have you planned a family activity with your teenager in the coming weeks, such as going to the movies, taking a walk, or sharing a meal? Teenagers who spend time, talk and have a close relationship with their parents are much less likely to drink, take drugs or have sexual intercourse.
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