Although addiction affects the entire demographic spectrum, there are certain demographics that are more susceptible to addiction than others. In fact, when it comes to addiction susceptibility, youths are widely seen as the most susceptible of all for a number of reasons. For one thing, youths are extremely impressionable, particularly by their peers. Moreover, a youth’s teen years represent a turbulent time during which they’re transitioning between childhood and adulthood, resulting in many teens behaving in certain ways as they attempt to expedite the maturation process.
For parents, adolescence is often a very nerve-wracking time. Witnessing their teens make poor choices, many parents try to come up with ways to protect their children from the most dire consequences of these mistakes. Obviously, one of the most severe repercussions of teenage partying is substance abuse and the prospect that teens develop substance abuse problems. What can a parent do to minimize the possibility that a teen’s partying crosses the line?
In short, the best way to safeguard a teen from the perils of partying is to simply talk to him or her. It can be difficult to talk to your teen about such difficult topics as partying and recreational use versus substance abuse, but it’s important to make the time for these conversations. Even if the teen isn’t receptive, making the time and effort for this important conversation will show the teen that his or her parents really care. Also, making the time to have these conversations from time to time gives the teen opportunities to talk openly to his or her parents about difficult concerns, troubles from adolescence, and other such things.
While being a teenage can be difficult for a number of reasons, being unable to talk to one’s parents and not having parents be an ongoing source of support during adolescence can lead to extremely poor choices that can result in addiction, unexpected pregnancies, injury, or even death.
Having a constant line of communication between parents and teen affords a level of reassurance since each side can discuss questions and concerns with the other. A prime example of the utility of this line of communication pertains to romantic relationships. As they are learning about romantic relationships, teens may have questions that would otherwise go unanswered without a line of communication with the parents. Similarly, a teen may have questions about alcohol or drug use, but if the parents have given the impression of being unreasonable, unwilling to listen or empathize, or of having unrealistically high expectations for the teen’s behavior, he or she will likely feel his or her parents are unapproachable. It’s also important for parents to be extremely honest with their teenagers during these conversations as it will encourage honesty from the teens in return.
Once there’s honest and open communication between a teen and his or her parents, the parents should set clear and reasonable ground rules regarding partying. The emphasis on “reasonable” is to discourage parents from trying to mitigate the risks of partying through strict rules and imposing strict limitations on the teens social life. Teens are much more likely to be dishonest about and/or sneaky with their activities when parents have their teenagers on extremely tight leashes. If the rules are more reasonable and allow the teen to have a level of freedom, it encourages responsibility and accountability, makes him or her more respectful of the ground rules, gives the teen room to begin making his or her own decisions. In effect, ground rules should provide enough of a guideline that deters the most dire consequences of partying while giving the teen a bit of breathing room to navigate social situations.
Some examples of common ground rules include a nightly curfew, requiring some type of adult supervision during teenage get-togethers, and needing a check-in phone call before the teen goes to bed if he or she is staying the night at a friend’s house.
In a perfect world, teens would be uninterested in recreational substance abuse, parties, and sex, and they’re always make good decisions. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. Statistics show us that more and more teens are experimenting with alcohol and drugs. And while rates of teen pregnancy have plateaued in recent years, there are also more teens becoming sexually active.
Therefore, parents should be aware that there is a strong chance their teens are going to experiment with alcohol and possibly drugs, experiment sexually with their peers, and push boundaries; however, if you’re aware that these are possibilities, you can prepare for them. For example, it would be a good idea to remind your teen to practice safe sex, even if you encourage abstinence first and foremost. And even if you discourage underage alcohol consumption and drug use, you should talk to your teen about responsible drinking, the harm that can befall them (and others) from drinking and driving, and the many types of scenarios that can result from substance abuse (i.e., assault, rape, personal injury, etc.). In fact, it’s not uncommon for parents to allow adolescents in their late-teenage years to experiment with small amounts of alcohol as long as they do so within the confines of their own home; the idea is that parents can at least monitor the substance use and take action if or when it becomes necessary.
Talking about the risks of partying is inevitably going to be difficult for both parents and teens; however, with addiction rates still on the rise, it’s an important conversation that we need to be having if we hope to minimize the risks that partying poses to our teens.
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