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What parents can do to keep their teens clean

It is every parent’s nightmare to get the call that their child is in trouble with the law. You likely know your kid as a bright teen with an even brighter future. The news that he or she is suspected of a crime can wreak havoc on your family’s life and your child’s prospects.

Parents can take proactive steps to prevent their teenagers from getting involved in illicit activities. You do not want your kid wrapped up in the juvenile justice system.

1. Be an active parent

Parents are not the only factor in determining a teen’s behavior, but you are certainly a major influence on the decisions they make. Play an active role in your kids’ lives and be present as much as possible.

Know who your child is hanging out with. Monitor their social media. Have a curfew. Make one-on-one time with them. Teenagers will resist the intrusion and claim embarrassment. But you can’t afford to be in the dark. They need you to be the parent. They need you to be that little voice in the back of their head.

2. Provide activities and engagement

Many teens get involved in illegal activities out of sheer boredom. With nothing else to do, drugs and petty crime may seem exciting. In order to deter your kids from such risky behavior, ensure they have a full itinerary for engaging activities. After school programs, sports, music lessons and volunteering are just a few of the engagements you can get your teen involved in.

3. Maintain honesty and openness

Curiosity is another common reason for illegal behavior. Teens may be interested in drugs and other risky behaviors simply because they lack knowledge of its dangers. Be honest and open with kids about the risks certain activities pose to their well-being and future. Sheltering teens from important information will typically only harm them and enable experimentation that results in legal trouble.

Keeping the lines of communication open is critical. Encourage “asking for a friend” type questions. They may be exploring boundaries or actually concerned about a friend. Offer to rescue your teen from a risky situation, no questions asked, such as a party where peers are using drugs or alcohol.

Focus on the future, not the transgression

Even good kids make bad choices. If a legal situation does occur, take the opportunity to nip the problem in the bud. Enlist help from an attorney to protect your child’s future.

You may be tempted to let your child “learn a lesson” or be “scared straight.” But you can’t just turn your son or daughter over to the juvenile justice system. Too often the punishment outweighs the crime or reinforces the teen’s negative self-image or hopelessness. The outcome of juvenile proceedings, though not public, can adversely affect future education and employment opportunities.


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