With the arrival of summer vacation comes endless free time for many teens. Unfortunately, all this free time could land your teen in some risky situations such as partaking in drugs or alcohol with friends. You can’t be with your teen at all times, but there are some strategies to implement to increase their safety and your peace of mind.
Set a Curfew
The decision to establish a curfew for your teen can be a little daunting, as your teen may challenge it and you will likely experience some anxiety as you let them stay out later this summer. Start by matching the curfew to their age and ability, as well as your trust level, and set the rules. For example, if you set the curfew at 10:30 p.m., reiterate that this doesn’t mean 10:40 p.m. and there will be consequences should your teen break their curfew. Hold your teen accountable, and be prepared for the curfew to be broken. However, avoid jumping to conclusions and allow your teen the chance to explain why they are late to determine if they are simply pushing the limit or had a valid reason.
Let your teen be involved in setting the curfew, as well as give him or her opportunities to extend it. For example, if your teen shows self-regulation by consistently making the 10:30 p.m. curfew, consider changing it to 11:00 p.m. However, let your teen know that if they fail to meet their curfew, it will be reassessed. Before you decide on the best curfew, don’t forget to check with the local laws in your area, as some cities have their own juvenile curfew laws.
Rules and boundaries, such as a curfew, are good for teens, but so is healthy communication. The first step in making sure your teen stays safe this summer is by being aware of what is going on in their life. Talk to them regularly and keep communication open by listening and asking questions. As you communicate with your teen, avoid lecturing, which is one-way communication and may make your teen feel like they aren’t being heard. By lecturing, there is often too much talking and not enough listening, and if your teen feels that they aren’t being heard, they may shut down.
Ask open-ended questions to facilitate meaningful communication, and minimize critical talks so that it is a relaxing conversation rather than an attack. Remember that your teen has their own personality, and with it comes their own group of friends. It’s okay to disapprove of actions, but not of people. Instead, make an effort to get to know not only your teen, but their friends too. Spend time with your teen relaxing, such as watching a movie or going out to dinner. The key is to make sure your teen knows that you are available to talk whenever and wherever they are ready.
Talk About the Hard Stuff
Summer break means less supervision, as well as an increased chance that your teen will have access to alcohol or drugs. Impairment from alcohol or drugs can lead to bad decisions, such as swimming or driving under the influence, and have tragic results such as drowning or wrecks. Set rules that clearly and strictly prohibit underage drinking and drug use, and implement consequences for breaking them. Make sure the rules are followed by checking in with your teen often, and know where they are and who they are with at all times. Offer to host and supervise teen parties in your home to make sure everyone stays safe and has fun.
Remember that no matter how much you talk about it, your teen may find themselves in an uncomfortable situation. Create a text code like “1-1-1” that will alert you when your teen needs to be removed from a particular situation. Make an agreement with another trusted adult that if you’re not available, your teen knows they can call that person for help. The key to this code is to promise that you will pick up your teen with no questions asked. Doing this doesn’t mean you approve of underage drinking or drug use, but that you understand peer pressure is prevalent and your teen is aware and knows how to get out of the situation safely.
Keep your teen safe this summer by implementing rules and sticking to them, and communicate with your teen often to ensure that they know you are there to help should a situation arise that they need to get out of. The goal this summer should be to combine summer fun with summer safety.
Frank Lawson is the co-creator of Edutude.net, which recognizes that every student has great potential, and strives to find unique, creative ways for parents and educators to encourage students to be challenged, motivated and excited by learning.