Whew, school’s out for summer! It’s been a long and busy year for sure! Never ending exams, Junior and Varsity sports, band practice and performances, dance recitals, SAT and ACT prep, tutors, driving lessons, drama productions, more sports… you name it and our kids did it with a vengeance.
With the summer months upon us, there is a natural desire to cut loose, stay out late and experience new adventures. No more demands of waking up early, or working into the evening with homework or with extracurricular activities in their lives.
With school out, many teens find themselves with days wide open with no structure or rigorous expectations placed upon them. But let’s be wary and pay attention. Summertime can be a time where we fall into traps of unhealthy habits: poor sleep patterns, unhealthy diets, late nights out with regular sleepovers, and possibly a new social life where alcohol and other drug use may feel more appealing and acceptable.
As parents, we are still the number one influence in our children’s lives. Whether you believe it or not, your children are listening and desiring guidance from you. For example, research shows that when parents communicate a clear message and expectation that they do not want their child to use alcohol or other drugs, those kids are far less likely to do so, especially when there is a clear message about consequences if they do indulge.
This summer, be that safe harbor for your children. Set guidelines and expectations from the start and you’ll see that your children will be more responsive and engaged than you might imagine. Some tips as we go forth into those long summer days:
Help and support your teen in finding a job or volunteer position. Your teen will have less free time, spend less time inside playing video games, and most important, their self esteem and confidence will rise as they see themselves as active and positive members of their community.
Plan regular check -ins during the day. Have them call you when they wake up as well as specific times throughout the day. Team up with neighbors and parents of friends so that there is a network of responsible adults keeping an eye out for our kids.
Keep the sleepovers and late night romps to a minimal. These are times when kids find with opportunities to engage in unsupervised, risky activities including experimenting with alcohol and other drugs.
Make sure they know about all kinds of drugs. Yes, they know about alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and even heroin , and the dangers that come with use of these substances. What they might not realize is that many prescription drugs out there are just as dangerous as street drugs, such as Adderall, Ritalin and even painkillers found in the medicine chest like OxyContin and Vicodin.
Secure all prescription drugs and keep your alcohol in locked cabinets.
And most important: Spend more time with your children this summer. Find a way to fit more family time into your evenings and weekends. Go hiking, fishing, play board games, explore new hobbies together, or camp out in the backyard. Spending this time together will help build stronger relationships all the while keeping your children engaged in positive, confidence building activities.
What better way to equip our children with the skills and tools to live healthier and happier lives? Let’s start with this summer.
Source: Stefanie Carbone, Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been working with families and adolescents for over 25 years and is a parent in the Yorktown community