Anxiety. Anger. Loneliness. Depression. These are common reasons teenagers turn to drugs. Guess what else tops the list? Boredom. That’s right; teens with nothing else to do are more likely to fill their time experimenting with drugs.
Researchers recently linked boredom to binge drinking, experimenting with marijuana and prescription drugs and using party drugs (like ecstasy). And boredom isn’t just a danger for first-time users - it’s also one of the triggers for relapse.
Break Out the Activities Calendar!
Keep ‘em busy. Now, we don’t want to go crazy and schedule activities for every second of the week in a frantic attempt to keep our teens off drugs. Remember, stress is also a risk-factor in teen drug abuse. We don’t need to overbook them; we just need to help provide some structure to stave off boredom.
Teens crave risk and adventure. So, channel this need for excitement into healthy activities. Enroll them in a sport. Encourage them to try out for a play. (What gets the heart pounding faster than getting up in front of all those people?) Adolescence is a great time to explore interests and find what works for them.
“But I Don’t Wanna Go...”
You might be thinking, “That sounds great, but I know my teen. He won’t want to do any of that.” Or, “My shy girl isn’t going to dive into community outreach and she certainly wouldn’t want the lead role in a play.” That’s okay. Your teen's bound to be interested in something, so encourage them to get out there and dig into the activities that really get the creative juices flowing.
Start with just one thing. Let your teen know they have to choose one activity. If they hate it, they don’t have to stick with it for life. Just try it. If it’s not a good fit, try something else (after giving it a fair chance, of course.)
Activity is especially important in the summer, since the lack of school provides tons of free time. There are plenty of summer activities available through park districts, schools, churches and other community organizations. Enroll them in something to keep them engaged during those long summer days.
When your teen is able to find a niche and pursue something they love, boredom is less likely to be an issue. At that point, it’s the substance abuse that looks boring.
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