Mike Nerney, a prevention specialist, makes the following recommendations to parents about strategies they can implement to keep their children safe.
Every family should have a strategy in place so that they know where their teen is and who they are with during the day and at night. Be sure to check-in with other parents and make sure that all the teens are in a supervised setting with a responsible adult. Empty houses with no adult supervision have proven to be very dangerous places for teens in Westchester County. It is usually in this unchaperoned setting that many teens first try alcohol and drugs or have their first sexual encounter. Text messaging, talking on the cell phone and even asking your teen to take a picture of where they are and then have them send it to you, have made the job of knowing where your child is much easier.
Be alert to any behavioral changes in your child. Also, be aware that since there is less supervision of teens during vacation time and during the summer, these can be dangerous times when teens are more likely to try alcohol, cigarettes, and other drugs for the first time.
When your children get home, give them a hug or a kiss and talk to them for a few minutes to make sure they are not under the influence of any substance.
It may be a deterrent for your children to use alcohol or other drugs if they know that they will have to pass the “hug/kiss/talk” test later on in the evening. Also be suspicious if they seem to have a strong fragrance on them as it could be an attempt to cover up the smell of alcohol or other drugs. If anything in their behavior concerns you, make sure they are safely in bed and wait until the morning to address the issue. However, if your teen seems impaired, DO NOT LEAVE THEM ALONE “to sleep it off.” Keep them awake and talking. Call 911 immediately if your teen cannot keep their head up or stay awake.
Make sure you and your child have discussed appropriate consequences for inappropriate and unhealthy behavior. The consequences should be firm, respectful and related to the behavior. Furthermore, although this can be difficult, the consequences must be enforced.
Let your children know that you love them and want them to have a wonderful teen experience. But also help them understand that they are the most precious people in your life and if they feel that you are being too protective, it is because it is your job to keep them safe.