Parents with teenagers can take advantage of the summertime advice being provided by The Way Out Recovery Rehab Santa Clarita.
The Way Out Recovery SCV Program Director Bob Sharits said that drug and alcohol use typically increases for both teens and adults over the summer months due to outside activities, partying and vacations.
“People are coming out to play,” Sharits said. “Whenever there is drug use and whenever there is partying going on, trouble will follow, whether or not you have crossed (that) line of addiction.”
For teens specifically, having parents at work and not going to school can result in what Sharits called a “free-for-all” that goes unrestrained during summer and ends in the need for treatment as the next school year starts.
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“When school starts back up, within a couple weeks into school we’ll start to get a lot of teenage admissions into our treatment program,” Sharits said. “That’s because the kids have been sort of running wild as a free-for-all all summer long, and they don’t have the ability to reel it back in now that school is here again.”
To combat this problem, Sharits first noted that parents should never assume this would never happen with their teen and there isn’t anything to worry about when it comes to drugs, alcohol or marijuana.
“Be careful with that sort of attitude,” Sharits said. “If you’re that parent thinking, ‘Not my kid,’ I want to tell you that national statistics say this… By the time a parent finds out that their kid is using any of those things, (on average) they’ve already been using for 18 months.”
Parents are also encouraged by Sharits to spend quality time together and really “know your kid” both over the summer and beyond.
“A lot of people are going to say, ‘Well of course I know my kid,’ but I want you to ask yourself, how much time do you really spend with your kids?” Sharits said. “It’s really important that we take that quality time, especially in their teenage years, and check in with them every day. Have a plan for them during the summer when you’re at work. (Ask them,) ‘What are you going to do today?’”
City programs and summer camps can offer teens “safe fun” in the summer, according to Sharits, and asking teens to check in while parents are at work can help keep them out of “trouble.”
“Keep tabs on them,” he said. “I don’t mean like you have to invade your kid’s privacy and spy on them -- if you think you need to do that, then go for it, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with that -- but if you’re having conversations with your kid and you know who they are, you’re going to see some changes in the way that they behave and the way that they act and the way that they look that would indicate that there’s some sort of problem either with drugs or perhaps mental health issues.”
A few changes to notice include changes in clothing, music or friends, and Sharits emphasized his belief that parents should know their teen’s friends and speak regularly with the friends’ parents.
Other advice Sharits provided to parents is to be the example and model for their kids in regards to substance use.
“If you are drinking or using drugs and you’re okay with that, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with that. I’m not telling you not to do that,” Sharits said. “But you better be able to have an open and honest conversation about why it’s okay for you to do it and not okay for your 15-year-old to do it.”
Just telling the teen that it is illegal for them to drink is not “good enough,” Sharits pointed out, adding that an effective conversation would need to include topics such as teenage brain development.
“We can get into all kinds of reasons about brain functioning and how damaging it is at 15 years old and how impulsive the 15-year-old brain is and why the use of alcohol on top of that impulsivity is a recipe for disaster,” Sharits said. “But if I’m modeling for my kids that I put in a hard work day and I come home at the end of the day, and alcohol is my solution to taking the edge off, what I’m telling my kids is that alcohol is the answer to their stressors.”
With summer going into full swing, Sharits pointed out that any parents with concerns about their teen’s alcohol or drug use don’t need to wait for their teen to cross the line into addiction or find themselves in serious trouble before getting help.
“We get people who come in who are sort of just getting into trouble who want to stop before it gets way out of control, and then we have people who come in who, it’s been out of control for a very long time, and so we’re dealing with all different levels,” he said. “It doesn’t have to get so out of control before you reel it in.”
Sharits concluded, “I don’t want to sound ‘doom and gloom’ or anything like that, but I do put it out as a strong warning to any parents out there that have teenagers. Now that summer is here, we have to keep an extra eye on our kids and see what’s going on, and make sure that they’re going to be safe through this summertime.”