Every year, thousands of teens and young adults leave town for their spring break from college or high school. In fact, about 15% of all spring breakers are high school students. Whether they hit an exotic destination or stay closer to home, there are certainly many risks that parents fear. And they are not insignificant risks with issues like underage or excessive drinking, sexual activity, and serious sunburn. So what can a parent do to prepare their teenagers and young adults for the spring break experience?
Time Required: A few hours to a few days
- Be clear about your expectations. Any teen or young adult on an unsupervised trip needs to know what you expect them to do. Be particularly clear about their communications with you on the trip.
- Tell them about the risks involved. Having had now five teenagers of my own, I know they think they are invincible, but we all know that they are not. Remind them of the risks of alcohol, sexual activity, sunburn, date rape, vandalism and more. The best precautions are the ones that they decide on and take themselves.
- Share emergency numbers. Create a list of emergency numbers that your teen will take with them. They should keep that list with them at all times. And mom and dad should have a number for the kids' destination hotel and cell numbers for the people they will be with in case of an emergency. And if they are leaving the area, make sure that their cell phones can be used there.
- Commit them to the "buddy system." Just like the old system from Scout camps and other outdoor adventures, make sure your teens know they should travel in groups--three or more is best. Never be alone when you are out of town and in unfamiliar territory.
- International travel requires additional preparation. If your child is traveling our of the country, there is a lot more paperwork to do. Passports are now required for air or sea travel between the U.S. and Mexico, Central and South America, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda, so prepare early.
- Help them avoid theft. Spring breakers are easy targets for thieves. They should avoid carrying too much cash, dressing conspicuously, wearing expensive jewelry and the like.
- Coordinate with other parents. Talk to the parents of the other people accompanying your children and make sure you are all being consistent in your approach. It will help them all live the rules if they are all keeping the same ones.
- Encourage an alternative spring break. Many teenagers and young adults are choosing other alternatives for spring break involving community service. Most colleges now offer a formal alternative spring break through their student services offices. Check your school website for more information or visit the Break Away website to look for opportunities for service.
- Sunscreen is a must. Many teens come back from a week in the sun with a massive burn. Make sure they take sunscreen or sunblock with a high
- Consider optional travel insurance. If your teen is traveling for spring break, you might purchase an optional travel insurance package to insure against lost luggage and trip cancellations.
What You Need
- Cell phone or a phone card
- Emergency contacts list