School is over and summer vacation is here. This can be a challenging time for youth and their parents. Youth have ample free time to do all sorts of activities, while parents struggle to find the time to supervise their children through their daily obligations. In addition to that, families are dealing with the stresses and realities of COVID-19.
For many teens, the summer months will be the first time they try alcohol and other drugs. During the summer months, when there is less supervision, youth are more exposed to the dangers of substance abuse. On an average day in June and July, more than 11,000 adolescents used alcohol for the first time, 5,000 started smoking cigarettes and 4,500 tried marijuana, according to the report by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 
So how can parents keep their children safe during the summer, while they are still hard at work? Here are some quick tips to help you keep your child safe, and make sure they enjoy their upcoming summer vacation:
Daily Check-ins. Kids need to know their parents are around and care. Parents are encouraged to check-in with their child throughout the day and know what they are doing and who they are with.
Be aware what is in your home. Make drugs and alcohol less accessible for your child and their friends. About 30% youth, who drank alcohol within the past month, obtained alcohol from their home . A majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including the home medicine cabinet.
Have an open dialogue with your child. It is never too early to start talking to your child about underage drinking and drug use. It’s important that your child knows your rules about underage drinking and drug use. Multiple conversations are more effective than a lecture.
Be clear with your child about the consequences of using drugs and alcohol, not just consequences you implement (such as grounding, no use of car, etc.), but also sports and school related activities they are involved in. It is important to discuss the potential consequences from using drugs and alcohol such as failing a test and getting kicked off their sports teams, to getting into an accident as a result of drinking and driving.
Prevention and communication are effective tools to keep your child safe and healthy. Keep talking, it may not seem like your child is listening to you, but your words are in their head.
 SAMHSA.(2012). Monthly Variation in Substance Use Initiation among Adolescents. National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Available here.
 SAMHSA (2010). Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings. Available here.