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You’ve probably heard the horror stories of spring break and teenagers run amok. Stories range from children drinking and trashing the house to teens disappearing never to be seen again. None of these stories are going to allow parents to sleep well at night while their teen is off having a grand time at spring break.

So how can you manage to have a good night’s sleep and ensure your teen’s safety?

Option 1: Travel with your teen this spring break

This may seem like a great idea or a nightmare depending on your point of view. Depending on your family and specifically your teen, this might work out to be one of the best trips ever or be a complete disaster.

Consider vacation spots and resorts that have a variety of activities that will appeal to every member of the family. You might try some place you’ve never been before for a new family adventure. Or consider a favorite spot where your teen knows some other people their age to hang out with.

Before you tell your teen that the only way they’ll be going away on spring break is if you’re there too, it might help to remember that the truth is that most teens don’t go completely wild over spring break. Sure, they want to spread their wings and have a little fun without parents (and younger siblings) in the way, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll lose total control.

Option 2: Spring break at home

Spring break at home may not have the sense of adventure or the big party atmosphere your teen is hoping for. If you have to work while your teens are off from school, staying at home may give them enough freedom if everyone is willing.

Let your teen’s interests help guide a spring break at home. Perhaps there are some things they’ve been yearning to try, but haven’t had the time. You might consider a day trip to a nearby city if you live in the suburbs or country. Conversely, teenagers who live in the city might want a day at the shore or in the country. Or they might want to stay in town with fewer restrictions than they would experience during a school week.

If you have to work and your teen doesn’t have their driver’s license, you’ll have to consider how your son or daughter will be getting around unless there’s good public transportation where you live. Researching transportation options ahead of time can make the week much more pleasurable for everyone.

Option 3: Research safer options for spring break

The biggest risk for teens during spring break is binge drinking. This is a scary proposition and it can be fatal, so it’s something to be taken seriously.  While underage drinking can happen anywhere, keep in mind that if your teen heads out of the country, they may be of legal drinking age there.

Some tour groups and camps offer a safe alternative for teens where they can be away from home, learn something about the world, meet new people, and yet have enough supervision to help Mom and Dad sleep at night.

The Student Youth Travel Association and Hostel World can both provide information on traveling opportunities for teens. For teens who would prefer more organized adventures, check out tour companies that offer trips specifically geared for teens. If you Google something along the lines of “travel for teens,” you’ll likely get a variety of options ranging from semi-roughing it bicycle tours to trips where you stay in hotels.

Look at the options with your teen to come up with something that will work for both of you.

Option 4: Break from tradition with these volunteer opportunities.

A different type of spring break altogether might be the perfect ticket.

Some teens will jump at the chance to do something useful that will help others. If your teen is looking to be involved, even if it’s so they have something that looks good on their resume, they might be interested in spending spring break giving to others.

Have your teen check with local organizations such as Habitat for Humanity where they can help someone get a home. At the same time, your teen can learn some handy skills. Habitat for Humanity has a program where you teen could travel around the world to help so they wouldn’t necessarily have to stay at home.

Other ways teens can give back during their break can include tutoring migrant workers, reading to the blind, visiting the elderly, or registering voters. Some opportunities will be in your area, while others may be across the USA or overseas. Some organizations to check out include Alternative Breaks, Volunteer Match, Service Expeditions, and Global Village Youth Program.

No matter which option they choose, it’s a good idea to have an honest conversation with your teen before the trip. It could be helpful if you both check in with your Internal Guidance System (IGS) before this conversation.

Talk about your expectations. Let your teen talk about theirs. Lay the ground work so you can hear the truth after the vacation and your teenager doesn’t feel like they have to hide or lie about the trip. Let’s face it, you want your child to be able to confide in you -- especially if something happened that was unpleasant.

Talking points may include some rules regarding their conduct. What’s acceptable behavior and what’s not? You might consider coming up with a pact, pledge, or contract that both of you sign before the trip so everyone has a clear understanding of their responsibilities and the expectations.

While this may sound like it’s in your best interests only, it can also help your teen to clearly set their own boundaries. You can also include in the agreement the sorts of things you expect to have reported back to you. This can help your teen feel less like they’re being interrogated when they get home.

At the same time, you’ll want to discuss the consequences of violating this agreement. What are the ramifications if your teen comes home and admits to a violation as opposed to you finding out later through the grapevine.

If your teen is going to go wild on spring break, you likely won’t be able to stop it. You might be able to prevent it this year, but your wild child will probably show themselves at some point. After all, at some point, everyone has to let go and trust their children will follow the path that’s best for them.

For more, please visit www.SharonBallantine.com.

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