Posted: Jun 05, 2012 11:00 AM
 
In a perfect world, summertime is an idyllic stretch of freedom to enjoy swimming, boating, barbecues and hanging out with friends. But for many teens, it's an open invitation to experiment -- with danger.

Contributed by Dr. Rick Meeves, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Areas of concern for parents of teenagers to watch for

Depression

Depression and confusion may be kept at bay by the daily structure of classes, after-school activities, homework and for some, daily family activities. During the unstructured time of summer, teenagers may become overwhelmed with feelings of depression and poor self-esteem and confused about where to seek help. Without help, teenagers -- more frequently than any other age group -- may begin to contemplate suicide as an answer to their problems.

Confidence

Confidence and body issues can prevent teens from enjoying summer. Many teens will not have the emotional confidence to seek out friends or the body confidence to join others in summer activities such as swimming. Loneliness and a sense of inadequacy may drive teenagers toward destructive behavior.

Drugs and alcohol

Drugs and alcohol are substances teens may experiment with to make them feel better. Usage is often a social activity and it becomes a way for teens to feel like they belong somewhere. The group bonds over the need to feel protected while engaging in an illegal and potentially dangerous activity. Because alcohol or drugs may initially offer an escape from painful feelings, it is easy for teenagers to become dependent.

Boredom

Boredom can be a motivator for thrill-seeking activities such as reckless driving, dangerous stunts or even criminal behavior. Teenagers are often impulsive and they do not consider the consequences of their actions. This greatly increases the possibility of serious accidents and/or legal trouble.

Sex

Sexual experimentation is more likely during the unstructured summer. Warm weather offers more outdoor places for teens to get together in privacy -- even in city parks. Peer pressure to have sex can begin as early as junior high school, and it often confuses and negatively impacts a teen's self-image. Either having sex before a teen is ready, or refusing to have sex, can have a negative impact on an already shaky sense of self-worth and confidence. There is also the risk of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. AIDS is the sixth leading cause of death among teenagers ranging from 15 to 24 years of age.

Make a plan to help your teenager stay out of trouble

Parents should strive to assess the possibility of their teenagers getting into trouble during summer. Help your teenagers become educated about the risks associated with drugs, alcohol and sexual activity. Seek out the proper resources, and then create a plan that will help teenagers avoid these dangers while at the same time develop their confidence and feelings of self-worth.

Another way to keep your adolescent out of trouble this summer is to enroll them in a structured program, such as summer school or a wilderness program, that can help your child get a jump on the next school year or work through some issues that may be holding them back from enjoying a healthy and productive life.

>>Dr. Rick Meeves, Ph.D., LMFT is the Director of Clinical Services for Adolescents for CRC Health Group, the nation’s largest provider of behavioral health and addiction treatment services.

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