School is out, and the passage from school to summer comes with plenty of transitions for our teens. Tweens are transitioning from grade school to middle school, young teens are graduating from middle school to high school, and older teens are spending their last summer before heading off to college. Aside from these larger life changes, many will be starting summer jobs, going to camp, or traveling. All of these transitions, both large and small, come with changes . . . in schedules, social circles, responsibilities and expectations.
It is said that “the only thing permanent in life is change.” Just because change is a natural part of life doesn’t make it any easier to go through–especially for teens. Studies have shown that adolescents who haven’t tried drugs or alcohol are more likely to start during times of transition in order to cope with stress. In addition, summertime is a common time for experimentation due to a confluence of two enabling factors: teens often have ample idle time during the summer and are often left alone as parents are occupied with their own busy social schedules. Those long evenings you spend at a friend’s outdoor dinner party or at a concert at Ravinia are ideal opportunities for your teens to engage in risky behavior.
The top five reasons teens use drugs or alcohol during transitions are:
• To combat loneliness, low selfesteem, anxiety or depression
• To mentally “check out” of family issues or school trouble
• To ease discomfort in an unfamiliar situation
• To look cool or change one’s image/reputation, and
• To fit in with a desired group of friends
You can’t control the changes that impact your teen, but you can pay attention to his/her feelings, concerns and needs. Be aware that all those comments by relatives and friends referencing the upcoming life change may be stressful to your teen. Staying involved in your child’s life during tough transitions is the single most important thing you can do to help keep them from experimenting with drugs and alcohol.
Some top reasons why teens use drugs or alcohol in the summer are:
• Plenty of free time
• Lack of parental supervision due to teens being home while parents are working or
engaging in their own social activities
• Later bedtimes leading to later nights out of the house
• A feeling of freedom once the school schedule is removed
• College students are back in the area engaging, modeling and encouraging risky behavior
• Availability at picnics and barbecues where adults are drinking
Make the effort to know where your teens are going, what they are doing and when they will be home, and be vigilant about their physical condition when they return home. Talk to them about the obvious temptations along with your expectations and the dangers inherent in those risky activities.
Sleepovers are common during the summer months. After all, they’re easy. A sleepover eliminates the need to run out late at night to pick up your teen, avoids curfew issues for those 17 and under, and removes teen drivers from the roads late at night. But a sleepover is a potential breeding ground and laboratory for experimenting with risky behaviors due to the lack of accountability and evidence of their behavior. There is no substitute for your own eyes, ears and nose in supervising your teens as well as having them safe at home at a reasonable hour.
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Starting the conversation with your kids and keeping communication open isn’t always easy–but it’s not as difficult as you may think. Community–The AntiDrug is here to provide the support, facts, and resources you may need. If you would like to get involved, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.