When it comes to parenting teenagers, it may seem like a three ring circus. Sex, drugs, and the pop music scene all threatening to undo all the hard work you\u2019ve done until this point to help guide your children to grow up into responsible and safe young adults. During the teenage years, though, it is as if your children develop an allergy to you and most other adults. It can be scary for parents, wondering who their impressionable teens are trusting and listening to. As teens appear to reject their parents, parents can start to feel lost and without a role, and a hands off \u201chope for the best\u201d attitude sometimes takes over. Some Background It might help to keep in mind that just as infants or toddlers have very specific tasks they achieve as they grow (for example learning to walk or talk), teens are still very much developing along emotional, psychological and even physical axes. Some of the major developmental tasks of adolescence include: \u2022 Psychologically and emotionally separating from parents \u2022 Creating their own identity \u2022 Developing both independence from parents or parenting figures while forging meaningful and interdependent relationships with peers Seeming to coincide with one another, these tasks push parents away just as many parents become aware of the new and significant dangers adolescents face. Some of these dangers, parents begin to realize, may lurk in their own homes, in terms of alcohol and prescription medicines. How can a parent keep their teens safe from legal but potentially abused substances? The Basics The short answer is that you build the foundation for this eventuality from day one. It\u2019s your job, parents, to lay the ground work for good decision-making by teens and young adults throughout your kids\u2019 childhood. How can a parent do that? A two-pronged approach works well: \u2022 Develop a close, trusting bond with your child \u2022 Teach, role model, and provide opportunities for them to practice age-appropriate decision-making skills Developing a close trusting bond does take time. It is never too late, though, so don\u2019t panic even if your child hasn\u2019t always lived with you, or you are parenting a foster or grandchild. Balance time spent doing things with your child such as insisting on eating dinner together every night with time spent allowing your child to spend time alone and\/or with peers. A nice way to bond is to share cooking chores as a way of involving your teen in the process. It not only fosters self-esteem in them, it allows you to observe their critical decision making skills. Make sure you know your children\u2019s friends and their parents, and the adults they are living with. Demonstrate interest in your child\u2019s extra-curricular activities and make sure you show up for games or competitions. If your child has trouble identifying hobbies or activities they enjoy, help them explore options. Teenagers shouldn\u2019t flounder. Left to their own imaginations, they may not make the choices you want or that they should be making. Sometimes bonding with your children seems as natural and easy as can be, but with some children, basic personalities can be so different that this is a monumental task. If you and your child have always been \u201coil and water,\u201d try to stay open to the fact that a new developmental stage, and the changes that you and your teen will go through may end up making things better between you two. This new stage shouldn\u2019t be seen as a chore, but rather a goal that both of you are putting equal amounts of nurturing to make it a success. Role Models and Limit Setters How can you role model healthy behaviors that will help \u201cvaccinate\u201d your child against substance abuse or other problems? To start with, assume that your teen is watching your behavior closely (even though they would probably deny this vigorously). What are your own limits and behaviors around alcohol and other substances? There are some \u201cdos and don\u2019ts\u201d that might be helpful. Don\u2019t: \u2022 Get drunk in front of your teen \u2022 Joke about getting drunk or high, whether or not you actually did. Don\u2019t banter about this with friends, on Facebook, or anywhere else. For now, it isn\u2019t appropriate. \u2022 Drink and drive at all, even if you \u201conly had one\u201d or you think you might still be ok \u2022 Hang onto leftover medication for \u201cjust in case\u201d situations. Dispose of any leftovers properly. \u2022 Use illegal drugs or engage in illegal activities involving drugs Do: \u2022 Show teens that small amounts of alcohol can be an enjoyable aspect of a meal or celebration and do not need to lead to anything more \u2022 Deal with stress in a proactive and self-affirming way, showing your kids that you can change your mood or deal with problems using positive coping skills \u2022 Develop and enjoy a lifestyle that involves all kinds of activities, and share these with your family \u2022 If you have a problem that you have not yet addressed such as an addiction, address it. Seek help and admit that you have a problem. This type of humble and honest admission of your own flawed human nature can be life changing for teens. They know you have a problem; they\u2019ve lived with you all their lives. Admitting it won\u2019t make you look small to them. It will make you look brave.