Spring break is often a student’s first opportunity to travel without supervision from a parent, teacher or coach. How liberating and exciting this can be! That said, it can also be stressful for parents, especially given stories in the media about the dangers of spring break.
But not all spring break trips center on partying. Many students visit friends at other colleges in different parts of the country. Some colleges sponsor ‘alternative spring break’ opportunities, which focus on doing good works instead of simply vacationing. Regardless of the type of trip, your student’s travels may be nerve-wracking for you at home.
Before spring break, take some time to speak with your student about their comfort level with traveling alone or with friends. This will allow them to ask you questions, and will give you the chance to offer some suggestions. You can share some travel tips with your student, including:
• Making sure that they have all the contact information they need, including travel agent, airline, destination, etc.
• Bringing a driver’s license or other photo identification.
• Bringing an appropriate amount of cash for the trip.
• If staying in a hotel, keeping their room locked at all times.
Request that your student also provide you with the flight numbers, itinerary, and address of where they’ll be staying. If possible, get an alternative phone number, whether it’s a friend’s cell or the hotel, in case you need to reach them and their cell isn’t functioning. Agree on how often they should be in contact while away.
If you are concerned about the possibility of your student drinking during spring break, use the upcoming trip as an opportunity to discuss alcohol with them. The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (responsibility.org) recommends that you communicate your family’s beliefs and values about alcohol. If you have not had frank conversations with your student about this or are feeling awkward about discussing it with them, The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility suggests some conversation starters:
• How do you decide whether or not to drink in college?
• What would you do if you find yourself at a party with only alcohol to drink?
• How would you handle it if you are asked to baby-sit someone who is very drunk?
Thinking about your student being away on spring break, you could add the following conversation starters to this list:
• How will you decide whether to drink on spring break?
• What will you do to remain safe when you are with people who are drinking?
• How would you handle it if you find yourself separated from your friends while drinking?
It’s best to have an open line of communication so that your student is well-informed in their decisions about alcohol, especially during spring break.
Traveling alone or with peers can be a milestone of young adulthood for many students. It’s a great chance to further develop self-sufficiency and independence. And as a parent, having some forthright conversations with your student can help ensure that their trip is a success!