It’s March, and we are prepping for warmer weather, green beer, and the portent of parental doom — spring break. How can such a festive idea evoke so much dread?
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. If my kids want to go to places you see on MTV, they will have to raise the funds themselves. This eliminates most of the arguments right off the bat. I make choices based upon our family value of helping others; sometimes that means helping others make good choices. 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, especially if you are paying for the room: 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. There are really sketchy people out there who prey upon single girls. Make sure your kids are surrounded by kids who have the same values. This will nip the majority of all problems in the bud.
• 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. Figure out what is important to your family and then tell your kids that you expect them to uphold those values when they are away from you. Remind them that everyone has camera phones, and those pictures will follow them forever. If they are going to drink too much (forbidding it won’t stop it), they need to pick a buddy to watch out for them. I know what college students are like, after all, I was one back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
• 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 — period. 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.
• When all plans have been set, release the outcome: Even if you have taken all these precautions, some uncertainty may still remain. It is crucial to take very good care of yourself to quiet the worry that inevitably arises when your kids are outside your sphere of influence. Be sure to exercise, eat right and get plenty of sleep to quiet the worry; there is nothing you can do except take good care of yourself and be ready to act in case of emergency.
Set up emergency contingencies before your kid leaves you.
Devise a system whereby your kid communicates with you every day, or twice a day, to let you know that they are alive and well. This is not negotiable. It only takes one minute to send a text, and since they love you, they need to show you by doing this one small thing.
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.
We can’t keep our kids under our wing forever. Our job as parents is to raise good citizens who better the world by being in it. Eventually, we just have to let go and have faith that our love will guide them even when they aren’t with us.
Source: Terri Fedonczak, life coach, parent counselor and author of “Field Guide to Plugged-In Parenting, Even if You Were Raised by Wolves.”