Your kids are out of school for the summer – but from 9 to 5, you’re still at the office.
How are your teenagers spending the dog days of summer? Are you involved in their day-to-day activities? Do you know where they’ll be, who they will be with, and what they’ll be doing? If they are hanging out at home and/or spending their time with friends, do you know their parents, and have you talked to them about underage drinking?
Though these conversations are important year-round, they’re especially critical in the summer time, when kids are also far more likely to have their first drink. After all, on an average day in June or July, more than 11,000 kids will start drinking. By comparison, that number averages 5,000 to 8,000 during the rest of the year.
If your child isn’t taking summer school, working a summer job, or otherwise occupied in the months ahead, they may find themselves with time on their hands – the kind of leisure that can lead to boredom and experimentation.
Your high schoolers, who may be spending their days hanging out at the lake, going to festivals, or attending parties – where kids overwhelming get their access to alcohol– need to know you don’t approve of them drinking alcohol. If they’re spending time at friends’ houses, where older siblings or adults might be willing to supply alcohol, your children are more likely to say no if you’ve clearly communicated that you don’t approve of underage drinking. It’s also important to talk to the parents of the peers your children are hanging out with about your expectations. But even when kids don’t drink, too often they get into cars with friends who have been drinking. So remind your kids that they should never ride with anyone who is driving after drinking (in cars, boats, motorcycles, etc.).
As adults, it is our job to create safe environments for children that are free of alcohol. This can include providing them with alternatives during their summer months so that they fill their days with fun, learning, and growth opportunities. Some free and affordable options might include:
- Volunteering at a local animal shelter or nursing home
- Swimming at the neighborhood pool
- Starting a side business, such as dog walking, lawn mowing, or babysitting
- Working through next year’s school reading list at the local library
- Planting an herb or vegetable garden
- Enrolling in a photography or writing class at your local community college
Finally, don’t leave alcohol available in your home; if you have alcohol in your home, lock it up. You should also check in with parents to see if they have alcohol accessible in their home before your children hang out there.
There are endless ways to fill a summer day that don’t involve underage drinking. And, studies show that the longer kids wait to take their first drink, the lower the odds are that they’ll develop alcohol abuse or dependence as adults. Preventing young people from drinking underage also means we’re protecting them from many of the negative consequences they’re more likely to experience when they drink – things like alcohol-related car crashes and other injuries (e.g., burns, falling, and drowning), unplanned or unprotected sexual activity, physical and sexual assault, abuse of other drugs, or even death from alcohol poisoning.
We hope you’ll get involved in your kids’ daily activities and keep them safe and alcohol-free this summer. For more information about what you can do to help prevent underage drinking with your kids and in your community, contact us at TST@TexansStandingTall.org or 512.442.7501. And, if you have ideas about other safe and healthy activities for youth during the summer months, share them in the comments section down below!