USEP-OHIO PARENT TIP
This brief Parent Tip is provided at no cost by United Services for Effective Parenting-Ohio, Inc. as a tool to assist parents, teachers, grandparents, and all who help to care for and to raise our children. For more information on this and other tools from USEP-OHIO refer to the conclusion of this Parent Tip.
We all have some changes in the responsibilities and schedules that affect our children, as they learn and grow through another summer. Parents generally have mixed feelings about facing the summer months because supervision and safety issues become critical. New plateaus in development require us to think through what we need to be prepared for in providing both activities that are fun and mind-stretching and providing boundaries that keep our kids safe.
Did you know that every year, approximately 300 teens lose their lives the night of their school prom?
Parents of teens are especially challenged because their youngsters work hard to assure Mom and Dad that they need no supervision and know all the answers about how to stay safe. They are often encouraged by their pals to try new things in the warm weather, and community police tell us even good kids push the limits toward riskier behavior. They want to stay out later, hang out with their buddies, drive in open cars, and generally “cut up.” Most parents can remember having fun, behaving on the edge of trouble in their past. But while some of the dangers are similar to those experienced by their parents, today’s kids face some pretty scary realities.
According to the survey of almost 20,000 adolescents published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, researchers at Mississippi State University say that teens are most likely to have sex for the first time in June. This is the time of summer vacations, proms, overnight parties and trips, and summer flings. First-time intercourse is usually unplanned, so parents better get busy listening and telling their children what is expected.
They are at risk for sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy, as well as emotional trauma. In a Youth Risk Behavior Survey published by the Ohio Department of Education, 47% of teens admitted to having sexual intercourse. It is suspected that this percentage has increased and likely is higher if other kinds of sexual encounters are included.
Teens have a high risk of injury in the summer because they are out of school, have less supervision, often drive their own cars, stay out late, are at risk for drug or alcohol use, and also have a sense of being invulnerable. Nearly one of four new users of marijuana under age 18 say that they started in June or July, according to data from the National Household Survey on Drug Abuse. They are more likely to have the most serious firecracker injuries on the Fourth of July and be seen in emergency rooms. Compared to other age groups, they are less likely to take even basic precautions like wearing seat belts, bicycle helmets, or life jackets. Car crashes are the leading cause of injury in teens. Lane errors, speeding, alcohol use, and inattention are some of the causes. Teenagers often load a bunch of kids in the car, and nobody belts up.
The leading cause of death in 15- to 19-year-olds is injury. But the best safety measure is parents. Kids still look to their parents as the best source of health information. Parents should not underestimate how important their interest in their teens can be in determining their behavior. Most kids still listen to their parents and want them to listen to their frustrations and fears.
Parent Tips for Auto Safety
- Make wearing a seatbelt a requirement. It is the law. Tell kids that their friends must also wear seatbelts in your family automobiles.
- Limit passengers. Most statistics show that every passenger added to the teen driver’s car increases the risk of a crash.
- Know where your teenager is going, and discourage “driving around.”
- Make sure your teen shares responsibility for part of the cost of gasoline and care. Shared ownership encourages responsible feelings.
- Offer to drive the gang at night. Your teen may be relieved to have a safe ride and to offer his buddies a ride. (The fatal crash rate for 16 year olds jumps from 15 per million miles traveled in daylight to 51 per million miles traveled at night.)
- Remind your teen of the risk of serious injury, such as being paralyzed or scarred. Ask them to imagine how their lives would change.
Parent Tips for Drinking and Drug Use
- Network with other parents, so you can share rules and responsibilities and so you know where the parties are.
- Require phone check-ins every couple of hours.
- Set boundaries ahead of time. Tell teens that they will lose their license (to your care) if you find they have driven friends under the influence or have been drinking themselves.
- Don’t leave teens unsupervised, especially overnight. Word of mouth can turn a gathering of friends into uncontrolled chaos.
- Help your teens find the right words to deal with their friends. When pressured, teens respond better if they have practiced the words they will use: “I don’t want to lose my driver’s license;” “I could get kicked off the team;” “I’ll pass this time;” “Count me out.”
- I encouraged my kids to tell their friends, “My parents find everything out. I don’t want to get grounded.” It was often a way out to blame us, so they did not have to seem “uncool.”
Parent Tips for the Danger of Drowning
- Youngsters are likely to go swimming or boating with friends everywhere from Lake Erie to Buckeye Lake or the local gravel pit without supervision or knowing the body of water. Teens underestimate the dangers of hypothermia or hidden rocks.
- Encourage teens to swim at beaches with lifeguards. Introduce them to state and local parks and pools.
- Encourage teens to take water safety classes.
- Set a good example, and wear a life vest when out on the water.
- Buy your teen a life vest if you know that boating is a possibility this summer.
- Tell teens the stories you know about people injured diving into shallow waters, injured on rocks, drowned while fishing or “horsing around” in a boat or on the beach, or lost because of hypothermia or alcohol abuse.
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For more on “Taking Care of Our Teens,” click here.