Thoughtful Parenting: Minimizing summer’s risks |

Thoughtful Parenting: Minimizing summer’s risks

Ah, summer in Colorado. We love this — the fresh breeze, bright blue skies, warm sunshine, green everywhere, free time. But we parents also can struggle in summer, especially with that last one: free time.

It cuts both ways, doesn’t it? Time off also means time to fill. And parents of teenagers know that time to fill can be one of the riskiest aspects of summer. One teen council member told us, “Bored teens are bad teens.”

One particular threat that exists year-round but especially in summer, with its lack of structure and increased social events, is the threat of what teens face in social settings.

How can teens stay safe at parties? The potential combination of teens, alcohol and predators is a dangerous one.

Here are some ideas to review with your teens. Get the conversation started. Be sure your teens are thinking about:

• Following their instincts. If they have a bad feeling about a person or situation, they should get away as quickly as possible.

• Knowing what they want from a relationship, and avoiding those who pressure them for more.

• Carrying a cellphone when they go out. (Be sure it’s charged. They should know who they’re going to call if they need help.)

• Avoiding getting rides with people they don’t know well. If they’re driving, they should make sure their car has fuel and is in good working condition.

• If they feel attacked or threatened, they should focus on making a lot of noise and try to get away.

• Learning self-defense. (Check out Colorado Mountain College’s calendar for summer classes)

• Acting confident and being aware of their surroundings. Alertness makes them a less appealing target.

• Knowing that teens who start dating young and who date people much older than themselves are at increased risk for unwanted sexual advances.

• Group dates and activities in well-lit public places are safer than being alone with someone. Talk about ideas for service projects with them — ways to express empathy by taking time to meet the needs of others.

• Not drinking or using drugs. Discuss the dangers with them.

• Even with non-alcoholic drinks, not drinking out of a communal bowl. Always opening their own drinks and never letting them out of their sight.

• Immediately reporting any threats to law enforcement authorities.

It’s a tough topic, but talking through the best ways to stay safe is a good place to start.

If your teens know they can approach you with these conversations, you will be their best line of defense against relationships or situations that can threaten their well-being.

Summer should be about good memories, great fun, time with friends and family and meaningful work and volunteer opportunities. We can help our teens keep it that way!

Melinda Clark is the CEO of Selah, a nonprofit committed to being a safe place to get straight answers about sexuality, pregnancy and the outcomes. Selah provides pregnancy testing, limited obstetrical ultrasounds, peer counseling, mentoring and parenting education at no cost to anyone in our community. Clark also is the mother of five kids, including two amazing teenagers, and she blogs at

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