School is out and Sussex County teens are enjoying the start to a long summer! While summer brings sun, fun and freedom, it also brings an increased risk for alcohol and other drug use among teens. Summertime means more free time and often times with reduced adult supervision. Outdoor summer recreational activities like swimming, boating, biking and hiking require our attention when safety is concerned and adding alcohol and other drugs to the mix increases the risk. According to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, (SAMHSA), first time teen alcohol and other drug use peaks in the summer. Teens are much more likely to try alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs for the first time during the summer months according to research and data collected from SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Fortunately, the longer days and warmer nights of summer can provide plenty of opportunities for parents to talk with their kids! The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) encourages parents to stay connected and involved in their teen’s life even more so in the summer months. NCADD suggests that parents should not be afraid to be the “bad” parent – decisions and rules can allow children to use their parents as “the reason’” for not using substances, ask open ended questions that encourage their teen to talk, be involved by knowing where teens are going and who their friends and their friends’ parents are, set expectations and be open, honest and positive. Research proves that teens who have had conversations with their parents about the dangers of alcohol and other drugs are 50% less likely to begin using substances. Parents play a crucial role in keeping kids safe as they are the # 1 prevention tool when it comes to keeping kids healthy and drug-free! The Partnership for Drug-Free kids provides tips, conversation starters and role-playing opportunities that encourages dialogue between parents and children about substance use. For additional resources, tips and tools be sure to check out parentadvicenj.org and Parentsempowered.org.