If you have children in high school or college, you know all about the importance kids place on Spring Break. This rite of passage, practiced by teens for decades, is for many parents the first time they allow their kids to travel without them.
Almost a declaration of independence, this one- to two-week period in the months of March and April is a time when most young people feel free to do anything and everything they can not – or will not – do at home under your watchful eyes.
It's no secret that many Spring Break vacations involve promiscuous sex, excessive drinking, drugs, and in some cases, violence. In fact, that is why many teens want to go on Spring Break. The promise of wild abandon and a nonstop party is too hard to say no to.
If you feel uncomfortable allowing your teen to attend Spring Break, you are not alone. Each year, more and more teens are injured, raped, and hospitalized for alcohol poisoning. Young girls are given date rape drugs, and some even go missing. It's not much of a vacation when you end up in the hospital, a police station, or come home with a sexually transmitted disease instead of a suntan.
The sad truth is that many tour companies who specialize in Spring Break packages care little about the safety of your kids. Some companies even market "all you can drink" packages, turning a blind eye to underage drinking, safety concerns, and drug use.
If you would like to allow your teen to attend Spring break this year, do your homework. Popular destinations are more apt to be rampant with illegal activity and temptations your teen will find hard to avoid. Do some research about locations that are less likely to have thousands of kids for the break. Your teen may prefer a party town, but when faced with the alternative of not going at all, will probably be happy to just get away and have an adventure without you.
Consider getting together with the parents of your teen's closest pals and organizing an adventure break for them – whale watching in Australia or swimming with the dolphins in Florida, for example. Or, think way outside of the typical Spring Break box and send your kids on an educational week, where they can study something of great interest to them.
Another popular alternative to the conventional Spring Break experience is volunteer breaks. There are a number of organizations, some religious based and some not, that offer special volunteer Spring Break experiences for teens. The prospect of volunteering may or may not appeal to your child, but they may perk up when they hear they will be hanging with dozens of other kids their age, and will be far away from you!
Even MTV, known for "inspiring" some of the debauchery of the modern-day Spring Break, has its own alternative volunteer vacation every year. In 2006, MTV partnered with the United Way to send teens to the Gulf Coast to help victims of Hurricane Katrina. See http://www.mtv.com/thinkmtv/features/alternative_spring_break/index_1.jhtml for more information about MTV's Alternative Spring Break programs.
Even if your kids are reliable and responsible in their "real life", the mere commodity to drinking, drugs, sex, and violence is enough to turn them into Mr. Hyde for the week. Your best bet is to scout out alternative locations or experiences for your teen, and give them a choice of two or three. Even if they are determined not to, they will still have fun. More importantly, they will be safe – and you will be able to sleep at night.