No one gets more excited about spring break than the high school or college kids who plan to spend the time on a trip with their friends.
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For parents, though, the week can create a time of worrying about their young adult children and their safety. The hordes of young adults concentrated in one place and lack of grown-ups can create a permissive atmosphere where alcohol abuse and risky behavior runs rampant.
What can parents do to make sure their teenagers or young adults make the right decisions – and relieve their own stress about spring break?
Have a frank talk
Parents can start by having a frank discussion with their children, says Scott Bea, PsyD, a psychologist in Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Behavioral Health. Start by reminding your children what spring break is all about. This can pave the way to discussing the erroneous perception that spring break is a no-holds-barred party.
“Spring break is about being with your friends, having low stress and enjoying the sun,” Dr. Bea says. “Parents should take the time to caution their children about the hazards of drinking, drug use and all of the other things that can happen on spring break.”
Keep in touch
Dr. Bea encourages parents of teens or young adults on spring break to stay in touch with them on a consistent basis. Text messages and phone calls can help remind your children of the limits both of you agreed to before they left. Contacting your children and asking about what they are doing also can reduce the tension parents feel over what they can’t see or control.
Parents typically pay for the spring break trip. Dr. Bea says this is why parents should feel comfortable setting limits on their children’s travel companions and destination.
Parents also should see themselves as advocates for their children’s safety, Dr. Bea says. If you make some decisions for them, you can help to keep them safe.
“In this group of young adults, the pre-frontal cortex – the part of our brain that helps us to make judgments – hasn’t fully formed yet,” Dr. Bea says. “As parents, we are in a much better spot to predict likely consequences of a behavior.”
Consider a trip together
Parents also have the choice to do a spring break vacation as a family, Dr. Bea says. A family vacation allows for more parental governance, can create a bonding experience and still gives your child – and everyone else in the family – a chance to have fun and reduce stress.