It’s that time of year parents of teenagers dread: spring break. Even if you are not sending your teen out into the world to go on an unchaperoned trip, you still have things to worry about. Research has shown that when teens and kids are left unsupervised, they are more likely to engage in risky behaviors like substance abuse. Without that reminder that they are being watched, many teens will take a risk and try something they know they shouldn’t. The good news is that there are concrete things you can do to keep your home-alone kids safe during spring break and to encourage them to make the right choices.
Talk About Expectations
Too many parents are lax about leaving teens home unsupervised. Don’t just assume that your teen will make the best choices or that she will know how dangerous it is to experiment with drugs and substance abuse. Before her week off begins, sit her down for a talk about what you expect her to do over spring break. Also address what you expect her not to do and whom she can and cannot have in the house with her. Make sure she knows that you are aware of the trouble she could get into and that you have consequences prepared. Teens whose parents address these issues are much less likely to make bad choices.
Secure Prescriptions, Inhalants and Alcohol
Even smart, typically well-behaved teens can be tempted to experiment with substance abuse when left alone in the home. Sometimes boredom is the push, but it may also be peer pressure. Don’t set traps for her to fall into. Secure any prescription drugs and even over-the-counter cold medicines, which teens do abuse. Lock up your liquor cabinet and clear the kitchen of beer and wine.
If the idea of inhalants is new to you, look up all the household chemicals that teens may huff and put them out of reach. Huffing is the act of inhaling chemical fumes and it is a classic teen technique for using household items to get high. Inhalants include paint thinner, lighter fluid, oven cleaner, correction fluid and even Freon from air-conditioning units. Inhalant abuse is extremely dangerous and can be fatal. You can’t protect your teen from every chemical, so be sure to talk to her about the risks. Most teens aren’t aware of just how harmful huffing is.
Keep Your Teen Busy
If you only focus on the negative, your teen is going to have a bummer of a spring break. One of the best things you can do to protect her is to keep her busy doing positive and fun activities. Look for community- or church-based activities designed for kids who are home for spring break. You could also encourage your teen to find a volunteer opportunity to get involved with for the week and even beyond spring break. Another option, depending on your own job, may be to have your teen come to work with you and learn about your career or earn some cash working as your assistant. Spending time with your teen is always a positive experience.
Spring break can be a scary time for parents. Substance abuse is just one of the concerns you may have for your teen during unsupervised time, but if you talk to her about what you expect, get her involved in positive activities and keep substances of abuse out of reach, you can keep her safe.