We are freaking out about our daughter going off on her first spring break. She looks older than her age, and her friends are seemingly more sophisticated than she is. How can we assist in setting her up for a good experience without being accused of being over-protective helicopter parents?
–CW, Mattapoisett, MA
Nervous about spring break expectations and speculations? You’re not alone. It is every parent’s nightmare from hell. You can navigate the letting go without hovering too closely.
Send your daughter the attached University of Virginia infographic.jpg from gordiecenter.studenthealth.virginia.edu to remind her that you will be thinking about her health and safety while she is on spring break. Additionally, try bringing up your concerns (some of which are listed here) in conversation.
* Ask about her plans. Planning a successful trip requires preparation, especially if she is taking medications. Will she have enough birth control for instance or latex condoms, if she is sexually active? Does she need to be vaccinated? Apply for a visa? Should she notify her bank that she’ll be using her debit or credit card in Costa Rica? Does she have a confirmed reservation that coincides with her arrival and departure dates for the place where she is staying? It’s best to arrive with a reservation number. If she’s going camping on St. John in the Virgin Islands, she’ll need mosquito repellent.
Have her send you her itinerary. Make her promise to use sunscreen, even if she’s going skiing, and to text you every so often. Ask her to text immediately with any change in plans.
*Warn her about the prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases because women are more likely to be victims of sexual assault than men. Sexual assault is usually unprotected.
*Think safety. More Americans under thirty die from unintentional injuries than any other cause. Think seat belts, life jacket, ski helmet and have the right gear. The facts are clear, unintentional injuries and acts of violence are among the top ten killers of Americans of all ages.
*Warn her to protect her eyes from the sun. If she has contacts, she needs to take lens cleaners and a spare pair of glasses, and wear sunglasses in warm places or ski goggles in snowy ones during the day.
*Support sports and activities that keep young adults out of the bars, like downhill skiing, rock climbing, and scuba diving.
*Eat and play healthfully. She should opt to avoid alcohol and any type of smoking whenever possible. What she smokes in her dorm is most likely less potent than what she’ll be offered on spring break. And as to those dirty little pills that are often handed around like M&M’S, who knows what they really contain?
*Know who your daughter is traveling with because she’ll need a ‘buddy,’ should there be a problem. Stress the importance of the buddy system. Always let a reliable friend know where you are while traveling.
Some parents make their kids sign a pledge not to smoke or drink with a reward after a period of time for not imbibing. That, or they tell them their own personal horror stories of mistakenly drinking the acid-laden tropical punch from the party fountain in St. Thomas or eating too many mushrooms in Santa Fe. Then there is the frightening story of Gordie Bailey, a college freshman, who died of alcohol poisoning, the result of fraternity hazing.
The great thing about texting is they don’t have an excuse for not contacting you, unless of course they loose their phone or there isn’t a cell tower; both of which are feasible.
I strongly believe that you can never caution your children too often about sex, drugs, and alcohol. For more information on keeping your daughter safe on her spring break, check out the GordieFoundation.org and send your daughter the link to their YouTube Haze
You’re not alone. Most of us feel we are deficient when it comes to parenting skills. On the other hand, the importance of allowing young women to take risks is a risk we as parents have to take, too. Adventures build self-confidence and foster independence.
According to a recent study in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology, moms and dads are “four times more likely to tell girls than boys to be more careful.” When we warn young women to be careful are we, in fact, undermining their self-confidence?
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