Vacation’s Coming: Don’t Let Your Kid’s Summer Go to Pot
June 12, 2015 | Falmouth Enterprise
Dr. Michael Bihari
After a busy school year a little rest and relaxation is well-deserved and much needed for both students and parents, but too much downtime (especially when unsupervised) can be hazardous to your teenager’s health.
By the time summer arrives, most of us look forward to slowing things down and enjoying an easy-going, commitment-free summer, especially in Falmouth with our beckoning beaches and throngs of visitors having a good time.
While this may sound like a good plan, it is in your teenager’s best interest to keep up the pace a bit this summer. The summer months are the riskiest time of the year for first-time alcohol and other drug use among youth, especially kids who just graduated.
Why? Too much time on a teen’s hands + lack of supervision = TROUBLE.
Check Out the Statistics
About 11,000 teens start using alcohol each day during the summer break, compared to about 8,000 a day during other times of the year.
On average 4,500 begin smoking marijuana each day during the summer, compared with three to four thousand a day other times of the year.
As for students who have already begun drinking and smoking, many are known to indulge more often and more heavily during the summer months.
Have a Summer Plan of Action
Make clear your expectations for your teen not to drink or use drugs, regardless of the circumstance they are in. Repeat this message often.
Help your kids create some structure to their days, whether it’s a summer job, volunteering, taking part in an educational class or workshop or enrolling in camp. Keeping busy is a good deterrent for drinking or using drugs.
Supervise your kids (even older teens) as much as possible. Set rules for who is allowed and not allowed to be in your home when you are not. Then check in regularly.
Know where your teens are, who they are with and what their plans are at all times. And if any part of the plan changes along the way, make it a rule that they check-in to let you know.
Be aware of summer parties and do not allow your teen to attend one where underage drinking is planned, even if she ‘agrees’ not to partake. This is legally risky and the peer pressure may be too much for him to handle. No matter how much you ‘trust’ your son or daughter, it is not wise to put your children in such a position.
If your teens are at a party and alcohol or other drugs come out, they must be able to call you day or night for a safe getaway.
Lead by example. Show your children that a fun, summer party does not have to include alcohol or smoking pot. If you choose to have a drink at a gathering, drink in moderation and let your children see that you are not driving; they are watching and learning.
Remind your kids they are never to ride in a car, boat or any other motor vehicle with a driver of any age who is under the influence of any substance. If the person responsible for getting your child home has been drinking, your son or daughter must know how to kindly refuse the ride and reach you instead.
Get to know your teen’s friends and their parents. You may be surprised to learn that some families are not on the same page as you when it comes to preventing underage drinking and drug use.
Be the Designated Grown-Up
Before allowing your teens to have a party in your home where alcohol will be served it’s important to understand the possible consequences. A teen who starts drinking before age 15 is four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence and is two and a half times more likely to become an abuser of alcohol than one who begins drinking at age 21.
The law in Massachusetts is clear: whoever furnishes alcohol to a person under 21 years of age shall be punished by a fine up to $2,000 or imprisonment for up to a year or both.
It will be on you...
- if your teen is caught with alcohol
- if your teen gets arrested
- if your teen has a car accident
- if your teen injures themselves or others
Reality Versus Myth
Some parents allow their teens to drink at home and may allow a party where alcohol is served. Although well-intentioned, doing so presents a legal danger for you as a parent and a serious health risk for your teen.
MYTH: You may believe that It’s OK as long as they don’t drive.
REALITY: Only one-third of underage drinking deaths involve auto crashes. The remaining two-thirds involve alcohol poisoning, homicides, suicides, and unintentional injuries such as burns, drowning, and falls. Taking away the car keys does not prevent the other damage that can result from underage drinking.
MYTH: You may think that providing alcohol to your teen at home decreases the risk for continued drinking as your adolescent gets older, and subsequent drinking problems later in life.
REALITY: The opposite is true – supplying alcohol to a minor actually increases, rather than decreases the risk for continued drinking in the teenage years and leads to subsequent problem drinking later in life.
MYTH: You may believe that being ‘too strict’ about adolescent drinking during high school will cause teens to drink more when they first leave home and do not have parental oversight.
REALITY: Research shows that teens who perceive their parents to be more permissive about alcohol use are more likely to abuse alcohol.
More than half of high school students who say their parents allow them to drink at home – even just occasionally – report that they drink elsewhere with their friends, as compared to just 14 percent of teens whose parents don’t let them drink at home.
Have a safe and fun summer!