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Keeping your teen away from alcohol, drugs this summer

If you're the parent of a teen, it's probably no surprise to learn that they're more likely to use alcohol and illegal drugs for the first time in June and July than in any other months. In fact, they may be more than twice as likely to try one or both for the first time during those summer months. That's according to a report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Increased free time, more parties and lack of adult supervision during the summer can all lead to more exposure to illegal substances -- including alcohol, which is illegal in Georgia, with just a few exceptions, for those under 21.

Most parents can't take the summer off work to supervise their teens. However, you can remain involved in their lives. Doing so can help minimize the chance that they'll use drugs or alcohol. For example:

  • Know where your kids are going to be and whom they'll be with. Note if your teens are spending time with kids you haven't met before. Don't be afraid to say no to an event that you don't feel is safe or appropriate or that won't have adequate adult supervision.
  • Set curfews and make sure your teens abide by them.
  • Give your teens jobs -- particularly if they don't already have summer jobs. This can include babysitting younger siblings, running errands and doing household chores. Follow up to make sure they've done them.

Watch for changes in your kids that could indicate alcohol or drug use. The teen years can be an endless string of mood swings. However, note if your child has increased outbursts of anger or has become more secretive, for example.

Teens should be able to relax and have fun during their summer vacation. However, if they know their parents are paying attention and holding them accountable, they're less likely to engage in potentially dangerous activities. They also have an easy out if they're subjected to peer pressure because they can say that their parents are expecting them to come home, take their little sister to soccer practice or clean the pool.

If your child is arrested for underage drinking or DUI, you may be tempted to let them face the consequences. However, those consequences can impact them well past high school -- into college and perhaps beyond. You shouldn't let them face the justice system alone.