Talking to Your Kids Before Spring Break
Many a memory was made on spring break—the stuff of legend. Miles away from parents, classrooms and especially rules, we thought we were grown and we were prone to doing grown things—some of which we had absolutely no business doing. Be clear: things haven’t changed with our own children. In fact, these days, the stakes are even higher, what with social media riding shotgun and our kids doing it for the gram, posting every bad spring break decision that could be made for the entire world to see.
Suffice to say, though you’re no longer in charge of packing your kids’ bags, it is your duty to pack some good sense into their heads as they get ready for an epic, adult-free vacay. And I’m not talking about reminding them to pack sunscreen. We’re talking bigger topics here, like peer pressure, sex, risky behavior, physical safety and, of course, drug and alcohol use.
It’s important, though, that “The Talk” come not from a place of warnings, threats and fear, but from trust, understanding and an appeal to common sense. Start by acknowledging that fun will be had and reassure your kids that you’re excited for them. Warm up the conversation with a discussion on logistics: ask where they are traveling, where they’ll be staying, who will be there with them, what’s on the itinerary and who, in their absence, can be contacted in case of emergencies. This is a great way to get your kids to let down their guard, loosen up and get ready for some common sense approaches to keeping safe while they’re revving up for the best time ever.
Then, the tough part. Emphasize that you want them to have a great time and be safe, and the clearest path to that happening is to be responsible. Tell them it’s safest if they don’t drink, but if they are of age and going to drink, they should do so responsibly; binge drinking can lead to all kinds of bad decisions, recklessness, accidents and injuries, and so it’s important that they understand and know their limits and have two less drinks than that. Also reinforce that any underage drinking is not only dangerous, but downright illegal. Another conversation I’ve had repeatedly with my girls, whether they were going on a trip with their friends or to a party on the weekend, is the importance of pouring their own drinks (alcoholic or not), fixing their own food and never, ever eating or drinking anything they left unattended, as following those simple rules will drastically reduce their chances of someone unbeknownst to them drugging their food or drink.. Safety, I always add, comes in numbers, so it’s best to stick with their personal group of friends and, no matter what happens, never leave a friend behind.
Above all else, let your kids know that you trust them and have high expectations for how they’ll conduct themselves while away from you. And then have a little talk with yourself, remembering the good job you’ve done already, instilling in your kids the values they’ll lean on to make it through spring break safe, happy and sound.
Denene Millner is the New York Times bestselling author of 29 books, including, “MyBrownBaby: On the Joys and Challenges of Raising African American Children,” and editor of MyBrownBaby.com.