Summer is the highlight of the year for most teens — no homework, sleeping in until noon, a fridge stocked with food and freedom. Many parents do not have the luxury to stay home and instead work full-time or go on vacation during the summer. With more free time, less structure and no supervision, it may provide teens with more opportunities to fall into a bad crowd, experiment with drugs or alcohol, or even get into other forms of trouble.

As a parent, keeping your teen focused on the right path is important. Because your teen is not yet an adult, their lack of maturity may make it hard for them to make good decisions. This is where parenting skills come into play. By taking the proper precautions of talking to your teen and planning ahead, summer vacation can be a positive and memorable growth experience for your teen.

The following includes a few ways to reduce the chance your teen will engage in unhealthy behavior this summer:

1.    Encourage teens to get a summer job or do community service

Summer activities can be a good way to get your teen out of the house. Activities like volunteering and having a job give teens the opportunity to gain real world experience while building character and independence. It also keeps them away from drugs and alcohol.

2.    Daily check-ins

Checking in with your teen periodically throughout the day is a good way to find out what your teen is up to. Don’t just text, call and talk with your child. By using the phone to call, a parent can tell if there is a change in a teen’s voice and often detect if there is something wrong.

3.    Know what is in your house

If you know you are going to be gone, secure and track all the alcohol and prescription drugs that are in the house. If items are made accessible while you are away, curious teens may be more inclined to experiment with those substances.

4.    Have open dialogue

If your teen feels like they can talk to you about their problems and their lives, and that you respect their feelings, they may feel more comfortable sharing their questions about peer pressure, drugs and alcohol. Open conversation allows parents to express their concerns about their teen’s behavior and discuss the risks involved with drug and alcohol use.

5.    Take care of their emotions

Teens today are under a lot of pressure at school and in their relationships. To make sure they don’t become too worried or stressed, teach them good techniques to handle stress. This will help prevent them from turning to risky behavior and harmful substances during times of stress.

6.    Know their friends

Once school is out, it is likely your teen will want to hang out with their friends more. An important task you must do is getting to know who your teen’s friends are and where they live. Many times, teens will leave out valuable information on who they hang out with. As a parent it is your responsibility to make certain who their friends are and who to contact if there is an emergency. This means getting to know your teen’s friend’s parents as well.

Teenage years can be as difficult for parents as they are for teens, who are eager for independence while their parents are trying to reign in their curiosities. Oftentimes, relationships can be strained as conversations turn into arguments. However, by continuing to engage with your teen throughout the summer and helping to encourage positive growth, parents can reduce the impact of peer pressure and curiosity and open the lines of communication with their teen. Following these helpful tips will help to keep your teen healthy and safe through the summer and well into the start of a new school year.

For more tips on talking with your kids and preventing alcohol and substance abuse, visit