Parents and Families

school in the winter

As arctic temperatures embrace Ann Arbor, students have started to count down the days until spring break (March 1-9, 2014) for a respite from studying and possibly even from the winter weather. But whether your student’s plans include a service learning trip, skiing the Rockies, travel to an exotic beach, or just hanging out in Ann Arbor, it can be seen as a time for wild behavior as a rite of passage. And this can create safety concerns.

As a parent, Spring Break is a good time to practice honest and open communication skills about risks, values, and planning. Parents and family members still have a lot of influence over the behavior and decisions of college-aged students. So before they head off on the vacation of their dreams, have a few candid conversations. For productive discussions:

  • Be specific about what you expect them to do on vacation (abstain or drink moderately, make positive choices about sexual decisions, plan ahead for safe behaviors, etc). Being specific is important. Your definition of ‘drinking moderately’ may vary greatly from your student’s.
  • Ask open-ended questions, but be prepared for the answers. Listen to what they have to say, without judgment. Don’t lecture.
  • Do not romanticize your own spring break experiences with alcohol or other drugs. You may inadvertently encourage this behavior.
  • Help your student to keep their perceptions in check. Do they believe that excessive drinking and casual sex are essential parts of the spring break experience because of what they’ve seen through the media? You can help them to understand that not everyone is doing it. 

Don’t know where to begin? Here are a few conversation starters:

  • What do you hope to get out of this trip? What are your goals and expectations?
  • What are the laws related to alcohol use in the state/country that you are traveling to and how do they differ from the laws you are accustomed to?
  • How will you deal with pressure to drink alcohol or drink more than you had planned?What kind of activities are available besides parties with alcohol?
  • What plans do you have for keeping yourself and your friends safe?
  • How do you deal with someone who is pressuring you for sex?
  • How would you make sure that a partner gives consent freely for any sexual activity?

Encourage your student to make a safety plan. The University Health Service’s Stay in the Blue program provides information to help students who choose to drink understand how much they’re consuming. A Stay in the Blue app is available for their phone. By planning ahead, and being aware of your expectations and their own, you can help your student have a spring break to remember!

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