It’s that time of year when kids are going to party. Maybe at a graduation party, maybe on a trip to the beach, maybe on a warm summer evening to ease the boredom, kids will drink alcohol, use drugs, and smoke tobacco. I wonder: how do they do it without their parents finding out?
My own parents brought me up in a different time, with different worries. I’m pretty sure they were clueless (at least they appeared to be) about these matters when I was a teenager. But this current generation of parents of teenagers, having been raised in the ’60s and ’70s, should be much more aware than their parents of not only the outward signs of drug, alcohol, and tobacco use, but also the dangers. And, you would think in an age where success, and even survival, depends on our kids keeping their wits about them, that parents would do everything they can to prevent drug and alcohol abuse.
Apparently, that is not the case:
More than one in five parents of teens think what they say has little influence on whether their child uses alcohol, illicit substances or tobacco, according to a report out Friday.
The report, from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), says nearly one in 10 parents (9.1%) said they did not talk to their kids ages 12 through 17 about the dangers of using alcohol, tobacco or other drugs in the past year.
So 23% of parents believe that talking to their kids is not helpful in preventing (or at least modifying) these dangerous behaviors. Maybe some had tried but were not successful. But nearly 10% of parents said that they didn’t talk to their teens about the use of alcohol, drugs, or tobacco at all in the past year. That boggles my mind. Is it that parents actually condone the use of these substances? Do they believe that the use of illicit substances is a teenage rite of passage? Or have they given up trying to be effective parents? Are they afraid of their children? Or is it that parents who drink and smoke and use drugs themselves are simply poor role models?
Kathy Payne says that parents can have a big influence on their children:
National surveys show that teens who believe their parents would strongly disapprove of them using substances were less likely to try them than their peers were, says Peter Delany, director of the Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality at the SAMHSA.
“Any time is a good time to talk to your kids when you have a chance,” Delany says. “But if you haven’t started talking to your kids, before school gets out is an especially good time.
“In the summer months, especially around holiday weekends, kids are more likely to get involved with substances,” Delany says. Kids may have more access to substances when they are out of school and at holiday parties, he adds.
Parents need to know where their kids are, whom they are with, and what they are doing. Teen privacy should be earned, not given. In the second decade of the twenty-first century, kids cannot afford clueless parents anymore.
More from SAMHSA here.
Here’s more information from the National Institutes of Health.