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Criminal street gangs are a serious problem nationwide. Gangs recruit new, very young members every day; many of those new members will become career criminals.

Here are some parenting tips to help your teen stay out of a gang:

  • Get him or her involved in activities such as sports or music lessons
  • Get involved in his or her school
  • Establish rules; set limits, and be consistent, firm and fair
  • Get to know his or her friends, as well as the friends' parents
  • Show respect for his or her feelings and attitudes
  • Develop good communication
  • Spend time as a family
  • Be a good role model
  • Educate yourself about gang and drug activity in your community
  • Know where your child is-be aware that 3 to 6 pm is an especially risky time

What are the signs that your child is involved with a gang? You need to pay attention to his or her friends and habits. Has there been a change lately? Here are some things to look for:

  • Excessive need for privacy and secrecy
  • Use of hand signs with friends
  • Injuries from his "friends"
  • Peculiar drawings or language on school books
  • Unexplained cash or expensive clothing or jewelry
  • Gang-member friends
  • Obsession with a particular color of clothing
  • Withdrawal from family
  • New, undesirable friends-and loss of old friends
  • Disrespect for you and your expectations

It is extremely difficult for a gang member to get out once he or she has been initiated.

If your child is already in a gang, don't try to handle the situation on your own.

You need to draw on all the resources possible to ensure your child's success. Find out about anti-gang organizations in the community. Contact local law enforcement and the school administrators and counselors.