Next Gen: Spring break tips for parent survival

By Terri Fedonczak | Apr 02, 2014

It’s April, and we are prepping for warmer weather and the portent of parental doom (cue scary music) — spring break. How can such a festive idea evoke so much dread? Because we have all heard the horror stories. Every year, at least one teen is hurt or killed by making really poor choices. As parents, what can we do to protect our kids? Here are a couple of simple tips that will help calm the dread. I’m not saying they are easy, but they are simple:

Vote for good choices with where you spend your money: My girls are forbidden from going to raunchy spring break sites, and I enforce that by not paying for travel expenses to those places. Even though my kids are adults, they are still poor college students lacking funds to sponsor their own festivities. I vote for safer alternatives with my dollars. This eliminates most of the arguments right off the bat. By basing my decisions on our family values, I don’t have to fight my kids; I just remain firmly rooted in what’s right for our family.

Approve roommates: Get cell numbers for all the roommates. This may be tricky, but if they want to stay in a room paid for by you, they will comply with your rules. Talk to the roommates to let them know that you care about all of them. Tell them to designate a driver and never leave a friend alone. Make sure your kids are surrounded by kids who have the same values.

If your kids are paying for themselves, all you can do is trust them: You have raised your kids to act in a way that lines up with your family values. If this family values thing is new to you, this is the perfect opportunity to sit down and discuss your values with your young adult. Remind them that everyone has camera phones, and those pictures will follow them forever. If they are going to drink, they need to pick a buddy to watch out for them.

If your kids are still in high school, don’t let them go on a spring break trip without you or a chaperone that you trust: This is a recipe for disaster, and no amount of sweet talking by your kid will make it sound any better. If you are unsure whether the chaperone seems trustworthy, err on the side of caution. Better a mad kid than a damaged one.

There are no guarantees that your child will be perfectly safe on spring break, just as there are no guarantees that your child will be perfectly safe anytime. Some things are out of your hands. But if you have raised your kid to be a good person with self-respect and respect for others, have faith that your years of effort will prevail and that your kid will make good choices.

Terri Fedonczak is a life coach, parent counselor and author of "Field Guide to Plugged-In Parenting, Even if You Were Raised by Wolves."