Teens love summer. School is out. They have more time to hang out with friends. And, if both parents work, they get to enjoy the freedom of unsupervised time. For many teens, this is a chance to demonstrate maturity and responsibility, but there are also risks. Unsupervised teens are more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol. Don’t make the mistake of assuming your teen would never do this. Instead, if you have to leave your teen alone this summer, take steps to reduce the risk that he’ll get into trouble.
Be Involved and Communicate Openly
The best strategy for protecting your teen from the risks of summer freedom is to develop a close and communicative relationship. Start the summer off on the right foot with a conversation about drugs and alcohol. Teens whose parents talk to them about expectations and the risks of substance abuse are less likely to experiment with drugs or alcohol. It also helps to have these conversations regularly and to encourage your teen to ask questions and to come to you with problems and concerns. The more you establish this kind of openness with your teen, the more likely he or she will be to tell you what is going on in his life, which may include peer pressure to drink or use drugs.
Lock Away Medicines and Alcohol
Even though you have encouraged an open dialogue and you feel like your teen understands what you expect of him over the summer, don’t take the risk of leaving dangerous substances out for him to find. The power of boredom, teen curiosity and peer pressure can overcome even the most sensible teen’s best intentions. Know what teens may abuse, and lock these things away. Include all prescriptions (unless he has one he needs to take during the day), cold medicines and alcohol.
Keep Neighbors in the Loop
If you and your spouse have to be at work during the day, make sure a few of your neighbors are aware that your teen is home. While they don’t need to spy on your house, they can keep an eye out for anything unusual, like multiple cars in the driveway when you have stated that only one friend is allowed over at a time. Let your neighbors know that they should feel free to intervene if they think something is wrong or to call you at work.
Keep Your Teen Busy
A great way to prevent your teen from experimenting this summer is to minimize his unsupervised time. Keep him busy doing worthwhile activities and he will have less time to get bored or to get sidetracked by friends who want to try something risky. A job, if he can find one, is a good way to teach your teen responsibility, to teach him about money and to keep him busy and away from trouble. If a job isn’t a possibility, encourage your teen to get involved in other kinds of activities. Maybe your church has some summer volunteer programs he can join. If he is academically inclined, he could be taking classes at the local community college. Summer camp is another good option, as are community center programs, local sports teams and summer art classes. Summer is a fun time and it should be. It should be a time for teens to get a little more freedom and to demonstrate that they can be responsible with it. However, it is also a time when things can go off the rails. Keep your teen busy, talk to him about drugs and alcohol and keep dangerous substances out of reach, and you will have set the stage for a fun and wholesome summer.