It’s that time of year again. The long, cold winter months are nearly a thing of the past. Days are becoming longer, birds are chirping and flowers are blooming. Spring has sprung, and spirits are high. But this joyous time of year also serves as a daunting reminder to some parents: spring break is approaching. For many young adults, the term “spring break” immediately alludes to “unsupervised fun.” However, for their parents, spring break can be downright terrifying!
The key to surviving spring break is to establish a strong relationship with your child. Parents are important role models in helping teenagers make responsible decisions as they exercise more independence in their daily lives. Teens who have strong relationships with their parents are more likely to make thoughtful, mature decisions with their freedom.
Below are a few ways to ensure you’re building a strong, lasting connection with your child that can be useful in years to come.
Have open lines of communication
Certain topics that are associated with spring break, such as alcohol, drugs and sexual activity, can be awkward and embarrassing for parents to initiate and teens to discuss. However, the importance of communication with our teens about these issues is undeniable. As parents, we need to be open to discuss any topic that will be relevant to our teens and the decisions they may face.
Having a frank conversation with your child about alcohol and its dangers is a good place to start. Alcohol use remains widespread among teenagers. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, nearly three quarters of students have consumed more than “just a few sips” of alcohol by the end of high school. Youth who talk with their parents about the dangers of substance abuse have lower rates of drug, tobacco or alcohol use.
Serve as a support system
The key to a strong relationship is ensuring that your children understand that we are here to support them, and that they are not alone. Let them know that you care about them no matter what, and if they have a problem or make a bad decision, you can help. Most parents will remember mistakes they made growing up and how the support they received from their parents helped them through difficult times. By serving as your child’s support system, they’re more likely to be honest in their communication and respectful of your rules.
Know your child well
Finally, if you’re familiar with your teen’s friends and hobbies, you will be more at ease when they’re not under your watch. Be aware of their plans for spring break: Where are they going? With whom? What are their specific plans? How will you contact them? Parents should set limitations for their teens’ spring breaks and establish guidelines before they leave the house.
Whether your teen is planning a trip with friends for spring break or a staycation full of fun at home, talk openly with them, listen to their point of view and remind them that you’re there to help them. With these simple actions, your spring break anxiety will surely begin to subside.
Stephanie Terry is a clinical manager for Centerstone (www.centerstone.org) and has been working with children and families for five years. Centerstone, formerly WellSpring Resources, provides behavioral healthcare services in the Metro East and Southern Illinois.