According to reports from the Adolescent Substance Abuse Knowledge Base approximately 30% of teens are offered drugs in middle school and high school.
Every day, 8,000 kids take their first drink of alcohol or use an illicit drug for the first time and starting them down a path of bad choices, bad health, and for some, even death.
Often, that first experience can have long lasting consequences: research has shown that more than 40% of those who start drinking at age 14 or younger developed alcohol dependence, compared with 10% of those who began drinking at age 20 or older.
During the summer months, when there is a decrease in supervision, teens are often faced with an increase in peer pressure situations that lead to first-time drug and alcohol use.
In fact, each day in June, July and August, approximately 6,100 youth try marijuana for the first time, a 40% increase over the remainder of the year.
The number of new underage drinkers and cigarette smokers also jumps during the summer months. Studies show that unmonitored teens are four times more likely to use marijuana or engage in other risky behaviors.
So how can parents keep their kids safe and away from drugs during the summer, while they are still hard at work?
Through my work at DFYIT, a nonprofit organization dedicated to youth substance abuse prevention, I encourage parents to be proactive to ensure the safety of their teens.
Here are some of the tips I offer to parents to keep their children and teens safe from drugs and alcohol this summer:
- Encourage teens to get a summer job or do community service: These activities give teens the opportunity to gain real-world experience and independence, while keeping them away from drugs and alcohol.
- Sign them up for a camp or summer sport: Teens will have the opportunity to enjoy their summer vacation with their peers in a safe, supervised environment.
- Daily check-ins : Parents are encouraged to check-in with their teens throughout the day, to know where they are and who they are with at all times.
- Be aware of what is in your home: Teens are more likely to abuse substances that are easily accessible to them, as 31% of children ages 12 to 14 who drank alcohol in the past month, obtained the alcohol from their own home. Equally as dangerous, the medicine cabinet provides 2,500 teens every day with an opportunity to abuse a prescription drug for the first time.
- Have open dialogue: By engaging teens in an open conversation, parents are given the opportunity to express their concerns about their teen’s behavior and discuss the risks involved with drug and alcohol use, while teens are able to comfortably share their experiences with peer pressure and exposure to these substances.
The teenage years can be difficult ones; as teens are vying for independence and parents are trying to retain influence on their child’s life, communication can become strained and conversations often give way to arguments.
Often, a breakdown in communication leads to tension but by continuingly engaging teens throughout the “dog days” of summers parents are able to reduce the impact of peer pressure and natural teenage curiosity and open the lines of communication about the risks of drugs and alcohol abuse to keep teens healthy and safe, well into September and beyond.
When parents talk to their children about teenage alcoholism and other sensitive issues, it gives them the opportunity to express each other’s concerns, and that could only lead to a healthy exchange between the two sides.
Micah Robbins, Executive Director of DFYIT www.dfyit.org. (Drug Free Youth in Town), has devoted more than 16 years to providing executive leadership and youth-programming for at-risk children of all ages. The experience taught him to engage students and gave him valuable insight into the issues that children and teens face today, especially related to peer pressure, substance abuse and violence.
DFYIT is a South Florida-based nonprofit organization committed to reducing the risk of drug and alcohol abuse in youth. With over 8,000 students currently enrolled in the DFYIT program throughout South Florida, DFYIT is helping educate teens about the dangers of underage drinking, drugs and violent behaviors and empower them to avoid peer pressure.