Top Ten Ways to Help Keep Your Teen Safe

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There is a quiet buzz of concern one can hear if one listens carefully enough to the conversations of many parents in our valley regarding the health of our youth. Last year, while on the board for the Valley Partnership for Drug Prevention I tried to start a movement along with the Executive Director, Michael Connolly. We began a Parent to Parent Alliance to empower our community to raise healthy youth.

Together, we put into place impressive committees, coordinated meetings, brought in counselors and educators to answer questions and concerns and created campaigns to change the social norms but without funding and overall general support I had to stop leading the Alliance. Instead, I decided to continue writing over here on Aspen Real Life and soon hope to bring in guest speakers and educators to talk about parenting our youth.

As the word got out about our efforts I heard feedback from parents voicing their frustrations with handling their teens and the angry repercussions they encountered from consequences asserted. Other parents admitted that it was difficult for them to hold their kids back from experimenting as they did the same thing when they were that age.

There is also the common philosophy that kids need to discover for themselves how to become responsible through trial and error, and while I can relate to these sentiments, Baddy and I agree that we need to do what we can to keep our children safe.

Best-selling author and renowned neuropsychiatrist Daniel Siegel states,

Adolescent bodies are stronger and healthier than any other time of life but research shows that they are three times more likely to die or get injured by a preventable cause. This is a dangerous period as they take risks to stimulate and release dopamine levels

Furthermore, today’s scientific studies on the adolescent developing brain reveal information that keep my husband and I on the same page when it comes to being mindful and present as parents and setting parameters for our boys, with their input.

According to VPDP, studies show that a teenager who has his/her first drink at the age of 15 has a five times greater chance of eventually becoming physically addicted and that if kids start using at the age of 14, they are 40% more likely to have substance addiction – add family history and the odds go up.

As I continue on with my mission to keep our boys on the right track, I have learned so much that could be helpful to other parents. Here is my top ten list to get parents started:

  1. Begin conversations about drugs and alcohol with children between the ages of 9 -13. It is important to reach your children while they are still listening, BEFORE they reach their freshman year.
  2. Be on the same page as Parents. If a kid sees that two parents don’t agree on discipline, they will find the holes and creep through them.
  3. Get out of the way of your children. If you have any kind of addiction, be honest with yourself. Is your vice getting in the way of parenting your children? If so, get help so you can help your kids.
  4. According to Siegel, children are generalists as a child and become specialists in adolescence. It’s a use it or lose it principle. If there is something your kid loves, keep them doing it so the circuits stay firing.
  5. Keep your kids busy so they don’t have time to get bored.
  6. Listen to the included video by Daniel Siegel explaining how the adolescent brain develops and how one of the major things that releases dopamine in the adolescent brain is novelty.
  7. In adolescents the dopamine reward system lowers but release levels increase. Middle and High School educators need to change the school experience to keep kids interested.
  8. Stay in touch with the parents of your child’s peers. Don’t be afraid to call and check in to make sure your children are where they say they are.
  9. Let your kids be absolutely clear on where you stand on drugs. Don’t create false dilemmas by thinking that allowing kids to party in your home keeps them safe.
  10. Don’t try to be there friends and please, please, please do not buy them alcohol or give them drugs if they are of an illegal age (if you are buying my kid alcohol Baddy and I will personally come over there and kick you lily white asses to the Aspen street corner and shame you – trust me).

If you have anything to add, please add it to my Facebook Page.

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