Summer Safety: Watch for Teen Alcohol Consumption to Peak
Parents have already pulled out the figurative “summer safety” list to help protect their kids. There are many familiar warnings on it about wearing sunscreen, staying hydrated, and not swimming alone. If your kids are getting older, perhaps you should scribble something down about not drinking booze.
According to a report issued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, on any given summer day, an average of over 11,000 teenagers drink alcohol for the first time. Perhaps not surprisingly, June and July have the highest “alcohol-start rates” (along with December) during the calendar year.
So what steps should parents take to minimize the risk of their teenaged children consuming alcohol during the summer? Here are some suggestions:
- Take an interest in their day-to-day lives. It sounds simple, but asking kids what they did each summer day can give you some idea of whether they are having good, clean fun, hanging out with the wrong crowd, or doing absolutely nothing all day. If you are feeling bold, ask if your kids’ friends are drinking; it can be an icebreaker for talking to your teens about alcohol use.
- Check yourself. Adults like to relax in the summer, too. If your habits pertaining to alcohol are less than exemplary, you may not be setting a good precedent, and your kids will pick up on that. Plus, be honest with your teens about any alcohol-related mistakes you have made in the past.
- Do not serve alcohol to your kids at home. Instead of demystifying booze for them and training them to drink properly, studies show that such practices have the opposite effect on teens’ drinking behavior. Absolutely do not host a party for your teen where alcohol is present.
- Monitor their nightlife. Summer curfews are perfectly acceptable, so do not hesitate to enforce them. If your teen is going to a party, ask whether there will be alcohol there (and check with the hosts if necessary). Also, make your teen stay home some nights during which you can plan family activities like games, a movie, or dinner at a restaurant.
- Keep them busy. You know that old saying about idle hands? Combat boredom by assigning tasks or chores to your teen during the summer. If you want, you can pay them for some work either with money or extended privileges.
- Keep track of money. If you give them money periodically, keep an eye on where it is going. If your teen spends it quickly, it may be going toward alcohol or drugs instead of food and incidentals. Definitely monitor any credit or debit card spending by your teenager. [One teen trick is to pay for their friends’ meal and get paid back in cash. That way, the card statement only shows food and not cash withdrawals.]
- Watch for clues. If your teen’s room smells like booze, he or she is probably drinking. If your teenager suddenly gets “sick” the morning after going out with friends or to a party, chances are good that alcohol overconsumption is the cause.
The last thing you want your adolescent son or daughter to do is to develop bad habits during the summer and be unwilling (or unable) to break them once the school year begins. It is much easier to prevent teen drinking before it starts than to deal with teen alcoholism and the fallout to which it leads.
If your teenager is struggling with alcohol abuse, contact us today.