5 ways to prevent teenage substance use

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Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition strives to keep our communities healthy, safe, and drug-free.

Excessive drinking is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths among youth each year. As a parent, you're one of the biggest influences in your teen's life, and you want to make sure that you're teaching them to make the correct choices.

The Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition recently reached a remarkable goal: to get 85 percent of Palm Beach County teens to be alcohol-free by 2018. To keep this trend moving in a positive direction, they recommend the following tips for parents from drugfree.org to prevent substance use and abuse in teens.

Build a supportive relationship with your teen. If you have a strong relationship with your child, they're more likely to open up to you. In turn, this may lead to less conflict when it comes to monitoring their behavior. Need some tips on strengthening your connection? Try engaging in activities together like cooking or watching a family-friendly TV show. Something as simple as eating a meal together can make a huge impact.

Be a responsible role model when it comes to drinking. Children and teens learn by observing their parents—especially when it comes to alcohol and drugs. Monitor your alcohol consumption in front of your kids. If they see you gulping through five glasses of wine every night, this portrays a message to them that excessive drinking is the norm. And don't use alcohol as a coping method on a bad day. Your teen needs to learn that alcohol doesn't need to be their primary stress reliever.

Understand your child's risk level. Some teens are at a higher risk for developing substance abuse problems than others. A family history of drug or alcohol problems, especially with a parent, can significantly increase the risk. A record of traumatic events—such as experiencing a car accident or natural disaster—can also make an impact.

Get to know your teen's friends. Your child's friends have a major impact on the choices that they make. Peer pressure is legitimate, so you want to ensure that your teen is spending time with the right people. To become better aware of their friends, ask your child questions in casual conversation and try and find ways to meet them. If your gut is telling you that their friend may not be the best influence, keep an eye on them, talk to your teen, and make sure that your expectations are clear.

Set boundaries. Sure, it's important to be friends with your kid, but it's also just as important to be an authority figure. Make rules and stick to them. If you tell your teen to be home by 10 p.m. and they sneak through the door at 10:45 p.m., make sure that there are repercussions. As long as your rules and punishments are reasonable, this develops a firm but fair message to your teens. Explain to them that the boundaries are in place to keep them safe.

Palm Beach County Substance Awareness Coalition strives to keep our communities healthy, safe, and drug-free. To learn more ways to keep your child safe from alcohol and other dangerous substances, visit www.pbcsac.org or call 561-374-7627.