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If Your Teen Is Headed On A Spring Break Trip, You've Got Some Talking To Do

This is a huge step in both of your development — theirs as a young adult and yours as a parent of one.

A group of teens smile and pose for a picture in a car before heading off on a spring break road tri...
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Going away on spring break is a milestone for your teen. It's their first time away from parents, classrooms, and especially rules. While your kid might be well-behaved and responsible enough, let's not fool ourselves: Peer pressure is real, and so is sex, risky behavior, and drug and alcohol use. (Fellow millennials, need we revisit our teen spring breaks?)

"Spring break is an exciting time for many teens. It presents an opportunity for them to socialize with their peers and engage in activities in a new setting," Dr. Cara Goodwin, Ph.D., a licensed clinical child psychologist, tells Scary Mommy. "Spring break also presents teens with lots of unstructured time away from their parents and caregivers. As a result, parents should be mindful and intentional about keeping an open dialogue with their teens as they prepare for spring break."

In her clinical practice, Goodwin encourages parents to make these conversations ongoing and be open to having open dialogue with their teens since these types of conversations can help teens think about navigating difficult situations and how to conduct themselves.

Below, Goodwin shares her tips on opening up the conversation about your teen's spring break plans and any concerns you might have — before they start packing their carry-on bag.

Opening Up the Conversation

In these conversations, Goodwin says it's essential for parents to be mindful of hearing their teen's views and values while also being mindful of their family's values.

"I think in these conversations, it is important to listen and reflect, and parents should be aware to not ask too many questions," she recommends. "It is important to make sure that they are hearing what their teen has to say."

Goodwin suggests having your teen stay in the lead of the conversation so that you really hear what they have to say.

"Find out what your teen knows and thinks about the topic you are discussing; some teens may be more informed than others," she says. "I always encourage parents to stay away from lecturing their teens so there is an open conversation."

One way you can navigate the conversation, says Goodwin, is to ask questions like:

  • What have you heard?
  • Who have you heard it from?
  • What do you think?
  • How would you navigate the situation if ______?

Navigating Talks Around Drugs, Sex, and Conflict

Like it or lump it, your kid will most likely start to experiment with drugs, alcohol, and/or sex during their teen years. Not sure how to deal, particularly when you know your teen may have access to all of the above on their spring break trip? Goodwin has a few suggestions.

Drug and Alcohol Use

"Some families have values about drugs and alcohol, and parents need to make sure that their teens are aware of these values," Goodwin says. She also says parents should also discuss the laws around drug and alcohol use and the consequences associated with engaging in substances when underage.

But since kids will be kids — meaning they probably will experiment with a six-pack anyway — she also thinks parents should have an open dialogue about the potential consequences of drug and alcohol use and share with their child exactly what should be done in cases of emergency when substances are involved.

"Teens must recognize that it is extremely important to seek out help from an adult or medical professional if someone is hurt or needs assistance," Goodwin says.


When it comes to sex, Goodwin says it's crucial to have a conversation about boundaries, consent, and safety. And while some families have values about sex — a conversation Goodwin says parents should have with their teens — erotic filmmaker and mother Erika Lust also suggests parents should provide accurate information, encourage dialogue, and answer their children's questions honestly and understandingly.

"While it is important that the younger generations know about the potential risks that sex without safety measures can have, we should also talk about the multiple benefits sex can bring into our lives and how pleasure should be celebrated," she tells Scary Mommy.

She continues, "At home, it is crucial to create an environment of trust and openness where our children feel safe talking about sex and pornography. We must educate them critically, explaining and promoting the importance of consent, respect, and mutual pleasure. As a mother, I have had to face this conversation personally, and I have always sought to create an environment of trust where they can ask me questions and express their concerns without fear of being judged — it is important that we break sexual taboos so that younger people can develop healthy relationships in the future!"

Navigating Peer Conflict

Given that teens will be around their peers for extended periods during spring break, there is a potential for peer conflict. For this reason, Goodwin advises parents to talk with their teens about how they can and will navigate conflict and let their teens know they can reach out to them for support if needed.

Feeling More at Ease With Your Teen's Spring Break

Seeing your teen grow up before your eyes is never easy. Letting them do something as autonomous and independent as going away for spring break is a huge step in both of your development — theirs as a young adult and yours as a parent of one.

So, how can you tell if your teen is ready to go on their first spring break trip alone? According to Goodwin, a few things that parents should consider when determining if their child should go on spring break are:

  • Is your child responsible? Can they make concrete decisions in difficult situations?
  • Do they have interpersonal skills? Can they speak up for themselves with their friends and peers?

Goodwin says a significant factor in parents feeling less stressed about their teens going on spring break is knowing who their teens will be with on their trip.

She also suggests talking to your teen beforehand about how and when communication will take place during the trip. "For example, 'We will speak every morning at 11 a.m..' Location sharing is also a way for parents to feel more at ease," she says. "Most importantly, trusting in your teens' ability to navigate being away will help to keep parents at ease."