Parenting during Spring Break

Every March there are op-ed pieces, well researched articles, numerous blog posts, and general conversation about the horror that Spring Break has become. These articles describe a picture of heavy drinking and outrageous sexual extravagance by young women for the viewing pleasure (and later the direct physical pleasure) of young men.

This year, the L.A. Times has a piece called Raunch is Rebranded as Confidence by Meghan Daum. This Spring Break piece is more thoughtful than most – rather than simply listing the licentious activities taking place in Cancun, etc, this month, this article follows that up with a (short) discussion of feminine value, or worth, and how these Spring-Break-going young women find confidence. Namely, according to Daum, they determine their self worth by how sexually appealing they are found to be during Spring Break. This is a bleak outlook on America’s young women.

Spring Break here in Austin is really no better, even if the participants are generally somewhat older. We are the yearly host of the SXSW music festival during Spring Break, and the debauchery runs high (although it probably has a better sound track than Cancun). There is enough sex and drugs and alcohol to make any Cancun follower beam with recognition.

So, as a parent, what to do? Well, here’s my thought: Say no. High School aged teens have no business going with their peers and no chaperon on a Spring Break trip to a party location. And there’s certainly no reason for parents to bankroll a child’s trip to party the week away, regardless of the age of the child.

However, if the kid’s in college, and uses his/her own money, well, that is what it is: an adult making a decision you don’t agree with. Feel free to ask honest, open-ended questions about the trip and safety measures. (What do you plan on doing? Who will be going with you? Do you have someone designated to stay sober and take care of the folks who aren’t? Are you taking condoms?)

If your opinion is asked, feel free to express some concern – but do it lightly. Children, regardless of their age, hear parental opinion expressed as a shrill scream, even when it comes as a whisper. There’s no need to augment that unfortunate tendency.

If you do get a chance to express some concern, be sure to mention the high correlation between alcohol and regretted sexual experiences. Again – mention it lightly, it might feel like you’re saying it almost in passing. Ask if your child would like to talk more about it, and let it go if they say no. Don’t try to hammer the point home – know that just by bringing it up, you’ve already done that.

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.