If you have teens or college-age young adults, you’ve probably had (or soon will have) ongoing conversations about how they’ll spend their break.
As kids try to get permission (and money!) for the trip, you’ll hear phrases like:
“I’m almost an adult. This is a rite of passage.” Or, “It’s what college students do. We go to the beach and hang out.”
The pressure is on for sure. But before you give in…
Here’s what research shows about spring break safety issues:
The average male reported drinking 18 drinks per day, compared to 10 drinks for the average female.
Of 783 young people surveyed, more than 50 percent of men and 40 percent of women said they drank until they became sick or passed out at least once.
The U.S. State Department’s “Spring Break in Cancun” says that alcohol is involved in most arrests, accidents, violent crimes and deaths suffered by American tourists there.
This is a major issue on some Florida beaches, so places like Gulf Shores and Orange Beach police departments have taken precautionary measures to avoid problems. These cities have already posted open letters on Facebook to spring breakers.
“We have said it before, but just so we are clear… if your top priorities when visiting the beach are being drunk and disorderly; breaking what you consider to be small rules like underage drinking, littering and leaving glass on the beach, urinating in public, using drugs, or engaging in violent or indecent behavior, Gulf Shores is definitely not the place for you.”
Risk-taking peaks during adolescence.
Instead of weighing risks based on logic and wisdom, teens are usually more concerned about how their choices will impact their peer relationships. They see being unaccepted relationally as a threat.
While a teen might usually make good choices, science shows that adding friends to the mix changes things. It makes them more likely to take risks for the reward of acceptance instead of considering the cost. The presence of other spring breakers can make it seem like the rewards of risk outweigh any consequences.
If your goal is for your spring breaker to be safe, consider these things:
Even if they don’t like the idea, you may decide to go along if you feel they aren’t ready to fly solo. You don’t have to constantly hover, but checking in regularly with an adult can decrease the potential for poor decision-making.
Help unsupervised teens and young adults prepare well. Discuss their plans and where they are staying. Establish clear expectations about everything from social media and location check-in to communicating with you by phone at designated times.
Address the dangers of underage drinking, meeting up with strangers and the potential consequences (legal and otherwise) for poor choices. They also need to know how to protect themselves from sexual assault, date rape, drugs and the like.
Ultimately, the goal is to keep people safe over spring break. We all know that one irresponsible decision or crazy social post can change someone’s life. (Check out How to Talk to Your Teen About Drinking.)
Most of us would probably agree: It’s better to leave no stone unturned than to wish we had said something. Don’t be afraid to be “that parent.” You know, the one who encourages new experiences, knowing that a strong foundation can help them make the most of their opportunities.
Make sure your child knows what is ok and what isn't.
People across America paid close attention to news about missing teen Elizabeth Thomas and her alleged kidnapper, Tad Cummins. After a nationwide manhunt, authorities continued to uncover evidence of an inappropriate romantic relationship between the girl and her 50-year-old teacher. Experts now believe Cummins had been grooming the student for a while.
This is a parent’s worst nightmare. And unfortunately, headlines like these have become far too frequent.
Every day, hundreds of thousands of parents entrust their children to teachers, coaches and youth ministers.
The vast majority of these people truly have the heart to help children. There are some bad apples in the mix, however, which can complicate things.
No parent wants to believe this could happen to their child. Your greatest desire is to keep your kids safe. But, how do you help your child guard against something like this without scaring them?
According to Kidpower International, an organization dedicated to providing empowering and effective child protection, positive communication and personal safety skills for all ages and abilities, these four strategies can help prevent these types of situations and help to keep your kids safe.
Put safety first.
The safety and self-esteem of a child are more important than anyone’s embarrassment, inconvenience or offense. If you suspect there is a safety problem involving children of any age, take personal responsibility and address it. Speak up persistently and widely until someone effectively takes action. Young people in abusive situations need help and protection.
Keep your kids safe by making sure you know what others are doing with them.
Some predators actually create opportunities to be alone with children by doing wonderful things with and for them. They may even seem like really nice people with excellent reputations. But don’t just trust people because they are part of a reputable organization or because they are family. Part of keeping your kids safe is trusting your intuition. If something feels uncomfortable, speak up. When in doubt, check it out.
LISTEN to your children and teach them not to keep unsafe secrets.
Most abusers build strong relationships with children before anything sexual takes place. Encourage your child to talk to you often by asking supportive questions, being a good listener and not lecturing. Pay attention to what they say. Be very clear that secrets about problems, touch, favors, gifts someone gives them, photos or videos, privileges, time alone with anyone and games are NOT safe. It’s crucial for them to tell you and other trusted adults instead of keeping secrets, even if it will upset or embarrass someone they care about. (Here’s how to be an emotionally safe parent.)
Make sure you tell your children, “Even if you made a mistake or did something wrong, I will love you and help you. Please tell me about anyone whose behavior makes you uncomfortable, even if we really like this person, so we can figure out what to do to keep everyone safe.”
Prepare young people to take charge of their safety by practicing skills.
One quick action can stop most abuse – pushing someone’s hand away, ordering them to stop, leaving as soon as possible, resisting emotional coercion and telling. If children understand these safety rules and have had the chance to practice them in an age-appropriate way, they are more likely to use them if necessary.
An Instagram post from Elizabeth Thomas said, “Every Beauty needs her Beast to protect her from everything but him,” credited to poet N.R. Hart.
Don’t just assume your child knows the signs of an inappropriate relationship. And, don’t assume that they would for sure tell you about something that happened. Be proactive and teach them. Empowering them in such a way can help alleviate any fear they encounter.
You can create safety by how you respond to each other.
Greg Smalley first met his bride-to-be during a rather embarrassing moment. Greg had fallen asleep in class. Erin, who sat behind him, decided to have a little fun. She shook his arm and said, “Stand up.” Greg looked at her with a dazed look. Again she said, “Stand up; the professor asked you to pray. Stand up!”
Greg stood up and proceeded to pray. Then he realized that everybody in the class seemed to be laughing at him. When he finally sat down, the professor said, “Greg, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but could you wait to close us in prayer until I have finished lecturing?” When Greg looked at Erin, her face was red from laughing so hard.
“At that moment I thought to myself, this girl has real potential,” says Dr. Smalley, co-author of The Wholehearted Marriage. “I figured marriage with her would be quite the adventure.”
Erin and Greg have been married since 1992, and the practical jokes continue to this day.
“My motto for our marriage is, ‘expect the unexpected,’ because I never know when Erin is up to something,” Smalley says. “We have had a lot of laughs, but we have also learned some very valuable lessons throughout our marriage. I would have to say that one of the most important things we have learned is that the state of our hearts is foundational for a healthy marriage.”
Smalley contends there are a lot of people who live life with a closed heart. The impact of that on a marriage can be devastating.
When people feel emotionally unsafe in a relationship, they will close their hearts and disconnect. People usually describe them as self-centered, insensitive and mean.
“I believe couples should strive to make their marriage the safest place on earth,” Smalley states. “When people feel safe, they naturally open their hearts and intimacy occurs almost effortlessly. When a spouse feels emotionally safe, he knows he can open up and reveal his true thoughts and feelings and his wife will still love, understand, accept and value him.”
One of the ways to create safety in a wholehearted marriage is to recognize your mate’s value.
“I often ask couples what they value about each other and encourage them to write it down,” Smalley shares. “When you are really angry, you can pull out that list and remind yourself of why you value your mate.”
Another key to creating safety is to understand there will be times when your spouse irritates you somehow.
How you respond can either create or destroy safety in your marriage.
“When couples refuse to discuss sensitive issues until they both have had time to calm down and think about their own contribution and expectations in the particular situation, the outcome is usually much better,” Smalley says. “Most people think along the lines of win/lose. If one person loses, the whole team loses. In safe marriages, the goal is to find a solution where both people feel good about the outcome.”
***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear that someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***