As spring has finally arrived, so have the joyous and celebratory events of many proms and graduations. Hundreds of students gather together to celebrate their achievements, and rightfully so. However, for some guardians and loved ones, this can be a worrisome time.
“Prom, graduation, and summer are a time for fun but it can also lead to less adult supervision and increased risk for substance use or other risky behaviors. According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), teen first time use of alcohol or other drugs peaks in the summer,” said Brandy Marquette, Executive Director at CACY.
The Community Action for Capable Youth (CACY) has been the lead prevention agency in Richland County for 45 years. They work to prevent substance use, violence, problem gambling, suicide, and more. They also have programs in all of the public schools in Richland County, including education on social and emotional learning and bullying prevention.
Naturally, caretakers are worried about the risks of underage drinking, drug use, and the potential for accidents or violence. While it's normal for young people to want to explore these avenues, it's important for parents to communicate the potential risks and set clear boundaries to ensure their children stay safe during this monumental and exciting time.
Molly Sandvik, a parent educator at CACY, works with guardians individually by guiding them on how to approach this conversation with their children. Many question when they should begin to start having this conversation, especially now that many people are coming into contact with substances at a younger age.
“You really don’t want to wait until they’re in high school. By then they’ve probably already experienced some sort of peer pressure. Vaping and tobacco has been a big issue, even for middle schoolers and elementary. We help parents focus on how to have age appropriate conversations about it,” Sandvik said.
Open communication is one of the best things a parent can do. Setting clear boundaries and being a safe space to talk about it is essential. Having opportunities and spaces that are substance free can remind them that it’s not always necessary. Coming up with plans preemptively, possibly even code words, if they need your help getting out of a situation or are simply uncomfortable can make a huge difference.
“Include them in this decision making and remind them your job is to protect them and keep them safe,” Marquette said.
To learn more about CACY,visit their website.The National Institute on Drug Abuse(NIDA)has an extensive list of resources for teens, including information about drugs and alcohol, treatment options and more.
To learn more about the Richland County Youth Substance Use Coalition, or collect resources for teens, parents, and other community resources, visit theirwebsite.