College Spring Break: Another “Letting Go” Experience for Parents

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If it is spring semester, spring break is on the minds of most students – and many of their parents.  Students have been hard at work since the fall, many have had a winter break at home with their families, and many students look forward to that mid-point of spring semester when they can let off steam.  Sending your student off to college as a first-year student was a sometimes frightening “letting go” experience for many parents.  One of the next major steps of independence for many students may be heading off on a trip for spring break.

Not all students travel for spring break.  The reality is that many of those students who do head for the typical spring break destinations receive a lot of publicity, but these students represent only a portion of the number of college students in the country.  Many students cannot afford expensive spring break trips.  Many students head home for some quality down time with family, or extra study time. Some students spend break working to increase income.   Increasingly, many students opt to spend an alternative spring break traveling and doing community service work.  More and more colleges are offering organized alternatives to their students.  College athletes may travel with a team.  Some students spend the break doing internships.  And some students choose to travel – but not to prime student destinations.

If your student is coming home for break, remember that, just like winter break, your student probably needs some down time.  That may mean that she may spend much of the week sleeping, doing laundry, eating, catching up on TV, and possibly sleeping some more.  This is a vacation for your student.  She has likely just finished midterm exams, and she knows that she has a lot of work ahead of her when she returns to school.  Be patient with her student hours, her apparent lack of motivation, and her need for sleep.

If your student comes home for break, he might use this time to pursue a summer job.  He might use this time to look for an internship, or even do a mini internship.  This might be a good time to do some job shadowing.  He might use the time to update his resume.  Many of the activities that are options for winter break may also work during spring break.

If your student does choose to travel, you may or may not feel completely comfortable about it.  This often is a difficult moment of letting go – partially because you may be concerned about your student’s safety.  It is important that you talk to your student about your concerns.  Let her know why you worry.  Try to be calm, but make sure that she understands the realities of some of the potential dangers of some of the typical spring break student destinations – even if she insists that she will behave responsibly.  Talk to your student frankly about the costs of such a trip and whether she can truly afford it.  Talk to your student seriously about safety – remind her to be aware at all times, to travel with someone she can trust, and to know that some actions can have serious consequences. 

Finally, remember that many students are generally responsible.  Don’t jump to the conclusion that just because your student wants to travel for spring break that he will be involved in the stereotypical, highly publicized college student orgy.   Yes, some students do spend spring break that way and you may have valid cause to worry.  If you have concerns about your student’s behavior you need to talk with him about it. This is the time to use all of your listening skills, and your positive communication skills.   

Many students spend their break reasonably and productively – and they have fun.  Many choose options other than travel.  Many travel safely and return ready for the last push of spring semester.  Talk to your student.  Express your concerns.  Agree on expectations.  Trust your student.  Support wise choices and responsible behavior.  And congratulate yourself on one more step in the college parent journey.

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