ONE of the strongest influences on emerging adults is their perception of the norms around them.The infamous teenage years are prime time for experimenting with new things — they want to try to be an adult and are tempted by adult activities.They want to follow their parents’ lead, try things their friends have already done, but most importantly, they are trying to find themselves and their identities. Drugs and alcohol are quickly involved in this.Many teens turn to cigarettes, alcohol and even “weed” or other drugs as a coping mechanism for stress. You may ask yourself, how could a teenager possibly be stressed? Well, they have their entire future on their shoulders; they have to make decisions regarding the rest of their lives; what will they study?In addition, many teens find they have an “image” to uphold or to conform to. The other big problem is that society is reflecting that it is okay to drink and get totally wasted. In fact, some adults boast about being so wasted the previous night, and this is what our teens are seeing as acceptable.A lot of people will say that teenagers these days are not the same as the teenagers 20 years ago, but you have to ask yourselves: why this is?The world is changing at a rapid rate every day, and our teens are getting trapped into being adults sooner than they should.It is our job as adults to be good role models to our youth and help them develop in the right way and allow them to enjoy their childhood in safe ways.Help them to not make the wrong choices that could destroy the rest of their lives. All it takes is one night of being at a party and driving with someone who has been drinking, one hit of a drug to become addicted or even worse, one hit and their body collapses due to not being able to handle such strong substances. We are losing too many youth due to alcohol and drug intake. Don’t let the numbers increase, help decrease them.Show them that it is not okay to use illegal substances at their age, don’t encourage alcohol use as the damage that it does to their developing brain is irreversible.Be a role model to the youth of our community and help save them one by one, promote education and healthy activities, spend time with your children and be involved in their lives. Bianca Nel is a qualifiedaddictions counselLor.