Experts weigh in on spring break risks for teens

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — After two long years, the pandemic is waning. This week, lots of kids are leaving school for spring break, but added freedom can mean teens returning to unsupervised risky behavior.

So parents should return to normal parenting strategies, according to Randall Children’s Hospital Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Heather Adams. She said that starts with keeping track of them.

“Know where they are at, when they’re expected to be back, who they’re with; we know how to get ahold of them and then we have a backup plan if we can’t get ahold of them that way,” said Adams.

There’s been a lot of sad and difficult news about opioids and the extreme danger of fentanyl often loaded in deadly doses in counterfeit pills. Two teens in Portland died this month of suspected fentanyl overdoses. This caused the Oregon Poison Center to issue a public health warning.

As hard as this topic is, awareness and communication are the first steps, said Stephen Dunlevy, a licensed clinical social worker with Multnomah County Public Health.

“And so we would really encourage parents to take the initiative and to learn more about the current drugs that are in the community and then to really kind of initiate conversations with their children.”

Hopefully, there are fun times for your family.  Dunlevy, who is a school-based mental health supervisor, said getting outside together is good for your body and spirit.

But if your kid isn’t into doing anything, it could be a red flag.

“If your kids are not excited about spring break then we want to watch out for mental health concerns they could be struggling with,” said Adams.

The child and adolescent psychiatrist said over spring break or anytime, watch for low mood, anxiety, isolating and sudden behavior changes in your children.  All could be signs your kid needs help.

That help may come from a mental health professional. But it can also help to simply come together.

“Play games, have friends over, have family meals… I think the real message is to try and spend time connecting because we know when you’re connecting you feel better and when you isolate that usually exacerbates feeling depressed or anxious,” said Dunlevy.

“Enjoy your kids, hang out with your kids and with your kids’ friends and get to know them and have a good time, but just do it without drugs and alcohol,” added Adams.

There are several ways to reach out for help if you or your kids need it.

The Multnomah County Call Center is 503-988-4888, the Oregon Youth Line is 877-968-8491. You can also text teen2teen to connect with a helpful peer. Lines for Life also offers several helplines, including its Youth Line: 877-968-8491.

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