Parent Tips – March 2016
Conversations to have Before Spring Break
By Alison Blanchet
Many years ago my youngest sister, Martha, was in college. She and her friends were going to a concert in Jacksonville Beach and I drove a few hours to meet them.
When I arrived, I realized a concert venue that would have seemed “totally chill” to my 21-year-old self now seemed laden with treacherous situations for my baby sister- full of dark corners and guys wanting to buy her drinks. Pulling her aside, I whispered every warning that I now realized I had never thought to tell her: “Do you guys have a designated driver? Do you know not to take drinks from strangers? Do you remember everything you learned from that karate class you took in middle school?”
The parking lot of a bar was a little late to be having this conversation. So what should I have been talking to Martha about before she began her spring break adventures?
Students are often well-versed on the consequences of underage drinking- it jeopardizes not just their health and physical safety, but can have legal consequences that negatively impact their future. But students who are able to drink legally should also learn about the importance of having a designated driver or other plan for getting home safely. To prevent drugs from being slipped, drinks should never be accepted from strangers or left unattended. Alcohol influences each person differently, pushing the limits is never wise.
The Buddy System
Always bring a friend that can be trusted. Talk to your friends ahead of time about your boundaries- your “unbreakable unshakables” – and agree to look out for each other. Situations that can be intimidating on your own- like unexpected illegal drugs and sexual temptation- can be conquered when there’s someone at your side, ready to walk or drive away with you. It’s also wise to leave your intended destinations and times of arrival and departure with someone else- a roommate, sibling or parent- who can send a search party if it’s 2:30 a.m. and a dead cell phone and car battery have you stuck on the side of the road.
The motto of spring break might be “what happens here stays here”, but the consequences of decisions made at midnight on the beach are real. The matching Princess Elsa tattoos, the instagrammed photos, the words exchanged under the influence of alcohol or fatigue- it will still be a reality next week. This is why the people and places you choose to spend this time with are so important. Friends who are a positive influence all year will most likely be a great group to spend Spring Break with.
Pray, Hope and Don’t Worry
When I met Martha that night in Jacksonville, I had to cram all this advice into a five minute conversation before driving away since she wouldn’t take me up on my initial offer of taking her home and hiding her safely in my living room for the rest of the week. As much as I wanted to hide her from the whole world and everything that could possibly hurt her, I had to trust that she would remember all the advice our parents and I had given her and assure her that she could always call me if she wanted to talk. I hugged her, told her I loved her and would have my phone on all night if she needed me, and prayed for her and her friends all the way home.
After all the advice has been given, emergency numbers shared and unconditional love expressed, it’s Padre Pio who has the best advice for parents (and worried older siblings) when it’s time for students to embark on their Spring Break adventures: “Pray, hope and don’t worry!”