By Diana Simeon
Did you know that most teenagers try drugs and alcohol for the first time during the summer months? It’s true. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), June and July are the peak months for teen drinking and drug use.
That’s because teenagers have a lot more free time over the summer, says Dr. Jennifer Powell-Lunder, a psychologist and co-author of Teenage as a Second Language. “There’s a lack of structure, for older teenagers especially,” she says.
Ideas to Help Curb Teen Drinking Over the Summer
1. Set ground rules.
“Have a conversation about teen drinking at the beginning of summer,” recommends Powell-Lunder. Explain to your teen that you’re concerned about the amount of free time they have, and establish some rules. “Be very specific and clear about what the consequences will be if you discover your teenager breaking your rules.”
Powell-Lunder also recommends parents decide key questions in advance, like can your teenager have friends over while you’re at work? Under what circumstances can your teenager use the car? What’s your teenager’s summer curfew? And so on.
2. Create structure.
Require your teenager to have some regular, structured activities. “What you don’t want is, ‘Here are the keys to the car. Go have fun,’” says Powell-Lunder.
You don’t need to plan every moment of every summer day, but parents should be keeping tabs on what teenagers are up to, even during downtime. “Parents want to give their teenagers more freedom over the summer,” explains Powell-Lunder. “Teenagers should have free time, but parents need to be very clear that they will be monitoring.”
That can include randomly checking in by FaceTime or a phone call, as well as a regular morning conversation. “Even if your teenager doesn’t have a plan for that day, you’re asking, ‘What is your schedule for today?’” recommends Powell-Lunder.
4. Be aware what you’re modeling.
Everyone is more relaxed during the summer, and that includes parents. “We all kick back more, but if parents are partying more, then teenagers may be modeling that,” notes Powell-Lunder.
5. Talk about binge drinking.
Summer is peak season for trying alcohol for the first time, but it’s also peak season for teenagers drinking more in general—which includes binge drinking. Binge drinking is the practice of drinking multiple alcoholic beverages in a short period of time; it can lead to alcohol poisoning, even death.
“During the summer, with a lot of free time, there is a rise in binge drinking,” says Powell-Lunder. “You’re at a pool party, you’re playing drinking games, there is more opportunity to drink and more availability of alcohol. It’s really important for parents to be aware of that.”
Diana Simeon is managing editor of Your Teen.