If your teenager believes he or she can take an unsupervised spring break, it’s time to start negotiating! Here’s how we did it in my family:
Many teenagers believe that once they have a driver’s license and a bank account, they’re old enough to go off on their own. Even if you don’t allow your 16 –year- old to take his car out for an unsupervised spring break getaway, he may have friends who can. So this is where negotiations can get tricky.
Our 16- year- old put a lot of pressure on us to let him drive to a concert six hours away, and stay at a campsite for two nights with a few of his friends. They didn’t want any adults around. He even had all the details worked out on how to get tickets, how to get there, and back, how to eat, and how to book the campsite.
We responded the way most parents would respond: The only way he would be taking this trip would be with a parent.
I thought our house was going to explode!
Here’s how we handled the situation:
1. We Sought Support.
We decided to meet with the parents of the other 16- year- olds who wanted to go on the trip. It turned out the parents were all experiencing the same thing: independent kids who were adamant that they were ready to do this on their own. Every family in this group had a tense home because of this issue.
That’s why it’s important to talk with other parents and not bear the load of parenting alone. You can create a force that’s as strong as—if not stronger than—the force the teenagers have created with their friends. When you talk with other parents, you can get more information, expand your perspective, and also talk through what you value and why.
2. We Listened.
We wanted to really hear what our 16-year-olds wanted to do and why. Then we said it was important for them to listen as well. Even though they were a group of responsible 16 –year- olds, they were still 16. We were concerned about their safety. We talked about how we trusted them but that we didn’t trust what other people around them would do. We wanted to make sure they didn’t get into situations that they weren’t equipped to handle.
3. We Compromised.
We agreed that a parent would drive the 16 –year- olds to the concert. The parent and the boys got a hotel suite where the boys had an adjoining (yet separate) room from the parent. On the six-hour drive back from the concert, the parent chuckled as all the boys slept the entire drive home.
4. We Learned.
The next year, the boys wanted to go again—but by themselves. We had another meeting with the parents and the boys. We told the boys how proud we were of the good choices they made the year before. We knew they were older, but they were still only 17. This time, the boys got to drive one vehicle, but a parent drove a separate vehicle. The boys were allowed to camp, but the parent stayed in a nearby hotel. The parent and the boys had periodic check-ins to make sure that everything was going okay. The boys knew that the parent could drop in unannounced at any time (which the parent did from time to time).
This arrangement turned out to be a smart next choice. While there, one of the boys lost his wallet, and the boys called in a panic to the nearby parent. The parent helped them calm down, retrace their steps, and eventually found the wallet.
On the six-hour drive home, many of the kids voted to ride with the parent and sleep. The other boys took turns driving the other vehicle. When they got home, the boys all talked about how hard it was to drive when they were so tired.
5. They Learned.
When the boys turned 18 and had graduated from high school, they wanted to go alone. We met as parents again, and we decided they were ready to take this trip on their own. We had long conversations with them about the long drive back home and how they needed to be rested for that. Since they had already experienced what not being well-rested felt like from the year before, they really understood what we were talking about.
So even if you take a spring break as a family, make sure you’re clear about what your kids can and cannot do. Remember that your kids may equate spring break with being wild. There are countless videos, both online and on T.V. that portray Spring Break as a constant party— overeating, overdrinking, and over indulging in everything. Talk about how it’s important to have fun on a spring break, but be clear that having fun also includes responsibility, and it’s possible to have a good time, while practicing moderation.