What Happens on Senior Spring Break Trip Stays in…Hmmm…Where Do you Put it? It’s kind of like having a baby, nobody really tells you what it’s like, you kind of just have to experience it. Or as a cousin and three senior spring break trip survivor so eloquently puts it, “You don’t really want to be there, but you certainly don’t want to not be there.” Well, I was there, in the beautiful county of Costa Rica with my husband, daughter and 16 of her friends (ten girls and six boys) and a dozen or so of their parents. I shared a lovely, eye-opening somewhat perplexing week with these bright, funny interesting, multi-dimensional teens and their fun and interesting parents. I will only share my story; my birds eye view of my daughter’s senior break adventure, without revealing any of the specific details that entailed. I loved so much about the trip; spending time with my daughter and her friends, getting to know some of the parents better and having some alone time with my husband. However, I do have to say that I felt like I was propelled into another universe during the seven mind-opening days and nights we spent at the all-inclusive resort. So, for those of you who will embark on such a journey some day, or are just curious, here are my most prominent, somewhat generalized and analytical take-aways from our senior spring break adventure:
Teenagers and their Brains: A Truly Compelling Senior Spring Break Study
After having the opportunity to watch this group of teens in action for a week, I couldn’t help but to stand back, observe and do some analysis. It quickly became clear to me how incredibly fascinating, complicated, unpredictable and adaptive the teenage brain is. I saw how powerful the group mentality is and yet how certain individuals are able to differentiate themselves and make their own choices regardless of what their peers are doing. I also saw how incredibly much teens need each other, oftentimes exceedingly more than they need their parents. They need to feel a part of a whole, to belong to something bigger than themselves, where they can feel valued, accepted and protected by their peers. I watched teens act impulsively and exercise self-restraint. I observed them taking incredibly dangerous risks when they shouldn’t, and other times act overly cautious and fearful for reasons that I could not comprehend. I watched them listen to and respect authority, and blatantly disregard adults’ rules and/or warnings. I saw them protect each other in almost animalistic ways, yet at other times, throw each other directly under the bus. As I watched all of this unfold, I vacillated between feeling appalled, exasperated and completely terrified, to feeling incredibly hopeful and inspired.
I realized that the stage of life that they are in right now is incredible. The world is their oyster. They are wrapping up the first chapter of their lives, which contains all the comfort and security of friends, school and home; and are preparing themselves to venture off into the world, without these securities. They are filled with the excitement and anticipation of starting their next chapter, which will take them away from home, to college, where they will have a brand new start. But the transition from the known to the unknown also produces some anxiety and unease, which I could sense in every kid that I spent time with this week. Some do not know where they are going to college yet, they don’t know who their friends will be, where or with whom they will live, whether or not they will join a sorority or if they will play a sport. There is a blank canvas in front of each of them, and each one of them understands that they will need to get out their own paintbrush and start painting. And what their picture will look like, no one really knows.
So, in lieu of this ever so complicated, and somewhat internally tumultuous time in their lives, if your child does convince you to take him on a senior spring break trip with his friends to a foreign country where the drinking age is 18, have fun and I wish you the best of luck! And please send me a note and let me know how it goes for you!
A Few General Senior Spring Break Survival Tips:
- Talk about expectations BEFOREHAND. Put it all on the table, issues relating to drinking, curfew, etc. (and also know full well that things may change when you get there). However, make your list of absolute no’s and be very clear with your child.
- Beware of wristbands. I am not going to tell you whether or not you should or shouldn’t allow your child to drink in a country where he/she is allowed to drink legally BUT if you stay at an all-inclusive resort, but I will tell you that once that wristband is securely fastened on your child’s wrist…let’s just say, that wrist band has power. And so do all the other teens swarming around the pool deck! (Just close your eyes and think of yourself at 18, or maybe you shouldn’t.)
- Provide STRUCTURE! Whatever you do, if you are at an all-inclusive, make sure you plan excursions, fun things to do during the day that will keep your children busy and provide an alternative focus. Explore the country, ride horses, go ziplining, parasailing, hiking, rafting, snorkeling, anything to get the kids up and moving.
- The Door Knock. When your child is out at night, make sure that she knocks on your door (if you allow her to room with a friend, that is) when she comes back in for the night…no matter what time it is.
- Don’t be afraid to hover. Hang out where the kids hang out at night. You don’t have to be right next to them but you can certainly be present.
- Strictly enforce the buddy system. This is a hard rule for all kids vacationing in a foreign country: No one goes anywhere alone! Ever! END OF STORY!
- Try to let go a little bit so that you can have some fun too!