Just the words “spring break” conjure up images of the most raucous and hedonistic activities one could imagine. Students enter college already aware of spring break, longing for all it beckons, or at least all it represents—warmer weather, the promise of sex, drinking, flip flops, lots more drinking and partying, vacationing with friends, more sex, etc.
It generally marks the student’s first possibility of a trip somewhere without parents and with greater freedom, with peers and sometimes with dating partners. Most students go home over Thanksgiving break and during the winter holidays but come March, it’s usually a different story.
So, how might parents navigate the tensions and worries associated with spring break and how might we think of other options for spring break? This article addresses all of this.
1) Beware of spring break scams and talk about these with your students so they can exercise good judgment in questionable situations.
2) The peer pressure for binge drinking is even stronger during spring break, so have conversations with your kids about the dangers of this and how they can stay safer.
3) Consider alternative spring breaks that involve rebuilding towns and cities, especially after natural disasters. Some colleges even sponsor these trips.
4) Consider retreat style spring breaks that focus on self-care—sleep, making and eating nourishing food, doing more exercise, yoga, meditation, etc. These need not be costly activities at all and are practices that can be done at home or if one chooses to stay at college.
5) Consider using the break as a way to jumpstart the summer and have informational interviews with companies and organizations looking for interns and/or summer workers.
6) Consider a break that has some degree of catching up on work, getting ahead on major projects and jumpstarting better study habits, particularly if you are struggling. And build in rewards for this—a day trip, movies, time with friends, etc.
7) If traveling, agree to have your student check in with you at agreed upon time intervals to let you know s/he is safe. Resist the urge to call and check in often.
8) Hopefully, you have shown a genuine interest in your student’s friends and so if your son or daughter is traveling with friends, it is a good idea to get their contact information, and their parents’ information, in case of an emergency.
9) If your son or daughter will be traveling with friends and can make a stop at your home, invite him/her with the friends to get to know them better, treat them to a nice homemade dinner or fun meal out, etc. This will build trust and help you see the friends your kid is making.
10) If you are comfortable, give your son or daughter credit card privileges on your card for real emergencies during trips.
11) Consider telling your son or daughter you want him/her to treat him/herself to a couple nice treats using your card—perhaps a ticket to a sporting event or concert, a massage, or a meal with friends. This will show support for his/her experience and will likely build trust.
12) Spring break might mark the first time your son or daughter goes away to see his/her girlfriend or boyfriend, wants to have the person come visit at your house, or plans to travel with him/her. Try to be receptive to this as it is the one thing that college students do that helps them to feel the most grown up. You might consider conversations about safe sex, expectations, and parameters at your home for not staying in the same room, etc.
13) Do your best to remember that spring break can be a microcosm of what is happening on a near daily basis at school the rest of the year and to trust that if your son or daughter is away at school and doing these things the other weeks of the school year, s/he has likely got this and will be okay.
14) Know that most young women are likely to feel insecure about their bodies, especially with the pressure to wear new bikinis and skimpy sundresses. Consider conversations that emphasize good health and loving one’s body.
15) Hope that your son or daughter will experience a welcome change of pace through the break and will come back more rejuvenated for the final push of the academic year. The remainder of March and April will prove to be important as students seek out internships, study abroad programs, summer jobs, and finalizing their plan of study for the next academic year.
16) Give yourself a spring break—find a way to take a day trip, try a new restaurant, get a massage, go to a new exhibit at a museum, take a walk in the woods or a fun downtown area near you, have friends over for a fun dinner or wine tasting, clean a closet and reorganize a room with new colors and a fun new item you buy on your own travels, buy flowers and plant window boxes, find a pool and go swimming, surprise your spouse with an overnight at a hotel downtown or by the beach if you live near one. And, relish in your own spring break!