Guest Post by Blaise Brooks

With summer vacation quickly approaching, teens can look forward to a lot of free time to relax, hang out with friends and spend time with family.

However, this newfound free time includes a lot of potential opportunities to engage in dangerous activities like alcohol consumption or drug abuse. What can you do as a parent to prevent your teen from partaking in such behaviors?

The answer is to help your teen stay busy and motivated over the summer. By limiting the amount of idle time teens have, you can directly decrease the likelihood of them taking risks that are detrimental to their health.

Here are some ways that you can encourage your teen to stay busy – and out of trouble:

  • Set goals: At the beginning of summer or as soon as school lets out, ask your teen what he or she would like to accomplish by the end of summer break. Encourage your teen to set daily, weekly or monthly goals that he or she can work towards. It can be something as simple as learning how to make a favorite family recipe, reading a book series or completing a personal project that he or she wasn’t able to pursue during the school year. Have your teen write down the goal(s), then display it in a high-traffic area in the home (refrigerator door, bedroom door, etc.). This way, your teen will be reminded of that goal every day. Whatever the goal is, make sure to check in every so often and see how your teen is making progress throughout the summer.
  • Summer job, internship or volunteer experience: A summer job or internship allows a teenager to build a solid work ethic, improve communication and develop leadership skills (not to mention a summer job or internship looks great on a resume and college application). Alternatively, you could encourage your teen to volunteer for something he or she is passionate about. Whether it’s with a local animal shelter, youth sports team or non-profit organization, there are plenty of opportunities for teens who are looking to be part of something over the summer months.
  • Travel: Summer presents the perfect opportunity for fun getaways that the whole family can enjoy. Spending time in a new environment may allow you to bond and connect with your teen in a different way than if you were at home. If your budget is tight, be a tourist in your own city and visit the fun and unique places your hometown is known for. Museums, parks, restaurants – there are a lot of options!

Do you have any other ideas to keep teens busy this summer? Be sure to share your ideas with other parents!

Blaise is a mother of one, caregiver of two, accountant and community advocate. Blaise is also a contributor to The Five Moms blog on StopMedicineAbuse.org, working to spread the word about cough medicine abuse with other parents. Join the conversation by following Stop Medicine Abuse on Facebook and Twitter.