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Crime Prevention Tip
How do you Keep your Teen Out of Gangs?
Gang membership is growing rapidly. Of course, no parent wants their teen involved in a gang, and the key to stopping their participation starts with watching for warning signs and providing a nurturing environment.
Help keep your teen out of a gang by understanding why they might feel compelled to join in the first place. While some parents might think only teens from broken homes join gangs, that's not true. Despite their home situation, teens join gangs to feel like they belong, identify with similar people, feel powerful, feel safe, get money or have their basic needs met in some way. They might also join if another family member or friend is involved in a gang.
It's important to keep an eye out for signs your teen is becoming involved with a gang. Look at how your teen dresses and acts. Are they making hand gestures, using graffiti on notebooks or clothing, or wearing specific clothing styles, colors or symbols? Are they involved with friends who you don't have a good feeling about, or recently changed friends? Do they seem uninterested in school, or have you noticed a sudden slip in academic performance? Do they suddenly have any unexplained expensive items, such as jewelry or clothing? Staying out past curfew without giving you a reason? While these signs don't necessarily mean your teen is involved with a gang, you should sit down and talk with them and seek further help from a school, church or community centre if necessary.
You can't always be your teen's best friend, but you can do your best to foster a loving and open environment at home. Strive to ensure your teen is comfortable talking to you. Regardless of how busy your schedule is, spend time with them. Find out about their friends or love interests. Take an interest in their academic life and support their extracurricular activities. If they are going out with friends, find out where. If they can't give you a specific answer, they probably don't need to go. Establish rules and consequences for breaking them, and be consistent in enforcing them.
School and Community Involvement
Encourage your teen to participate in school, or community activities and clubs. When your teen is involved in extracurricular activities, they have adult supervision, develops other interests and skills, has fun and makes friends with other teens who may be a positive influence. Boys and Girls Clubs, the YMCA or YWCA, and Boy or Girl Scouts are all positive club options for teens. Many cities also offer teen Centre's where teens can hang out, play games, participate in activities and take field trips.
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