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Parents can help keep their teens from trying alcohol, drugs

Your teen is likely looking forward to the freedom and fun that summer vacation brings. However, you're probably a little concerned about what kind of trouble they might get into -- particularly involving drinking and drug use. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, more teens first drink alcohol and use drugs in June or July than in any other months of the year.

While you can't monitor your teen at all times this summer, you can watch for signs that they may be consuming alcohol and/or drugs. Many of these signs are more subtle than the smell of alcohol or pot on their breath or their clothes. They include:

  • Changes in the kids they spend time with, the places they're going or their activities
  • More frequent or more serious outbursts or mood swings
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Frequently not feeling well
  • Being unusually distracted or "out of it" during conversations
  • Increased secrecy
  • Not fulfilling commitments

While the teen years are the time when kids stretch and test their boundaries, parents still have the right to require their kids to check in with them, to follow their rules and pitch in and help around the house. Parents can and should have clear expectations for their teens. These can include:

  • Having a curfew
  • Requiring your teen to tell you where they'll be and who they'll be with when they go out
  • Giving them responsibilities like mowing the lawn or babysitting their younger siblings
  • Monitoring their video games, movie choices and concerts to make sure they're age-appropriate

If, despite your best efforts, your child is arrested for suspicion of DUI, it's essential to make sure that their rights are protected. Your first instinct might be to let them deal with the consequences of their behavior. However, a DUI conviction can have consequences for the remainder of your teen's high school years and impact their ability to get into the college of their choice and to obtain a scholarship. It's wise to seek legal guidance.

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