Summer vacation is a time for fun and relaxation, but it can also be a dangerous time for kids, especially teens and tweens.
Summer means more freedom, and many homes with little or no supervision. This can create situations ripe for drug and alcohol experimentation.
During the summer months, car accidents spike for teens and many involve intoxication. In addition, kids are at risk for accidents as they skateboard, bike, swim and play. Following are some tips to help you keep your teens safe this summer.
Out of site out of mind. A newly released report notes that the #1 cause of overdose deaths is not illegal drugs, but rather prescription medications. For parents this means getting rid of your old medication (many local pharmacies will take them for you). Lock up other medications that can be harmful or addictive. Remember, it’s not just your child, but perhaps his or her friend who may search through your medicine cabinet while visiting.
A phone call is all it takes. If you work, make a habit of calling your teen at least once a day. Texting can make this even easier. Try to make the conversation a friendly one rather than an obvious check-up. And ask teens to call or text before they leave the house to tell you where they will be. Many parents set a rule that there can’t be friends over or visits to friends’ houses without an adult present.
Safety first. It’s always a good idea to review safety rules with your kids, from wearing a seatbelt in the car to wearing a helmet when biking. Remind them to be cautious of cars, and if they drive, be more aware of the extra kids out and about during summer. Many accidents happen right in the family driveway.
Make a list. Help avoid the “coming home arguments” with lists. It may seem simple to remember a few chores, but teens in particular can often be absent-minded. In your list include chores, studying, hygiene items, and let them know about upcoming family plans or menu options they should be aware of. You can also make suggestions for fun options, like what’s playing at the local theater or a festival in a nearby park.
Remember to take a break and enjoy summer activities with your teens. Take in a summer concert in the park, hike or take a picnic to a local lake or beach. Spending time together builds a stronger foundation, and this foundation ensures wiser decision-making when apart.
Patti Skelton-McGougan is Executive Director of Youth Eastside Services (YES). YES is a nonprofit organization and a leading provider of youth counseling and substance abuse services in the region. Since 1968, YES has been a lifeline for kids and families, offering treatment, education and prevention services to help youth become healthy, confident and self-reliant and families to be strong, supportive and loving. While YES accepts insurance, Medicaid and offers a sliding scale, no one is turned away for inability to pay. For more information, visit YouthEastsideServices.org.