by Mary Pat Angelini, executive director & CEO of Prevention First
Did you know that more young people try alcohol for the first time during the summer months than at any other time of the year? Keeping teens occupied and supervised helps to ensure they have a safe summer. By involving teens in a variety of alcohol-free activities-such as sports, summer camps, and outdoor recreational activities-you can help prevent underage drinking.
Here are a few other tips for busy families to consider for the summer months and beyond:
- Establish and maintain good communication with your child. Get into the habit of talking with your child every day. Building a close relationship with your child when they are young will make it easier for them to come to you when they have a problem. With a closer relationship to you, they will be less likely to experiment with alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs.
- Get involved in your child’s life – it really does make a difference! Young people are much less likely to have substance use problems when they have positive activities to do and when caring adults are involved in their lives. Your involvement and encouragement tell your child that they and their activities are worthwhile. Additionally, you will be better able to see changes in your child that may indicate a problem.
- Make clear, sensible rules for your child and enforce them with consistent and appropriate consequences. By doing this, you help your child develop daily habits of self-discipline. Following these rules can help protect your child’s physical safety and mental well-being, which can lower their risk for substance abuse problems. Some rules, such as “Respect Your Elders,” apply to all ages, but many will vary depending on your child’s age and level of development.
- Set a good example for your child through your own behavior. Think about what you say and how you act in front of them. Your child learns social skills and how to deal with stress by listening to and watching you. Do not take part in illegal, unhealthy, or dangerous practices related to alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs or they may believe that, no matter what you say, these practices are OK.
- Support your child’s social development by teaching your child how to form positive relationships. Research shows that the pressure to use tobacco, alcohol, and illegal drugs comes most often from wanting to be accepted, wanting to belong, and wanting to be noticed. Help your child learn what qualities to look for in a friend, and advise them about what to say if offered harmful substances.
- Find out what your child is listening to and how they are spending time with their friends. Talking with your child about their interests opens up an opportunity for you to share your values. And research says that monitoring your child’s activities is an important way to lower their chances of getting involved in situations you don’t approve of, especially those that can be harmful. Unsupervised children simply have more opportunities to experiment with risky behaviors, including the use of alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs, and they may start substance abuse at earlier ages.
Prevention First invites you to stop by and visit our resource center for free information on parenting and many other related topics. Call us at 732.663.1800 ext. 216 or visit us at 1405 Highway 35 North in Ocean Township or in our Barnegat office at 848 West Bay Avenue or on the web at www.preventionfirst.net.
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