Susan Parmelee
Susan Parmelee Health and Wellness

By Susan Parmelee

From my office at the high school, I could see everyone was ready for summer vacation to arrive. I hope adults and teens are now getting more sleep and enjoying more time with family and friends.

While we all need some idle time over the summer, we also need to remain aware that the time between Memorial Day and Labor Day can be the most dangerous for teens in terms of driving and risk-taking behaviors. Mother’s Against Drunk Driving reports an increase in teen traffic fatalities by 50 teens per month nationwide over the summer. First-time substance use increases dramatically over the summer months—particularly for alcohol, cigarettes and marijuana.

As a parent of teens, I was always ready to take the summer off as well. However, I encourage parents to help their children have safe and healthy summer fun. Here are some ways to keep our kids safe:

Provide structure to their days.

Kids need some accountability and help in planning out their days. If they know they have to unload the dishwasher and walk the dog before they can go to the beach, the job gets done and you do not have to nag them later in the day. Keep the school-year rules in place and do not let them slide. Curfews should remain in place, restricted license laws should be observed and teens should be required to check in several times during the day. If their plans change, ask them to check in with you and let you know who, what, where and when.

Form a partnership with other families

This is especially valuable for taking groups of kids on outings away from San Clemente. Encourage the buddy system among the kids in your partnership. Teens are always safer in a group, particularly a group where several of the kids have parents aware of where they are and when they will be home.

Stay involved in your teen’s life

Use the slower summer months to bring up trickier topics like substance abuse, dating, sexual activity, suicide and friendships. Remember to listen and not lecture. Your views are very important to your teen and a major determinant in their behavior. Give them a chance to voice their opinions as well.

Don’t forget sunscreen, hats and sunglasses

The bad sunburns we get over the teen years can be very harmful later in life. Also check in with your teen about their summer diet. We often rely on fast food much more in the summer months while there are a lot more healthy options for food we can pick up, some of our best intentions may be forgotten. Don’t forget to encourage family dinners. Summer is also a good time for the kids to take over some of the dinner planning and cooking.

I know I will spend most of these summer days being thankful to live in a beautiful and safe city and I hope you and your family are able to share this gratitude and, come August, have lots of great stories to share.

Susan Parmelee is a social worker who works during the week at San Clemente High School in the Wellness & Prevention Center and at Western Youth Services. To subscribe to Wellness and Prevention Center weekly emails, send an email with the word “subscribe” in the subject line to

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