Culture Challenge of the Week: Spring Break
Amidst the freezing temperatures across the country, Spring Break plans are well underway. And, unless your head has been in the sand or the clouds for the last few years, we all know what the typical college, or even high school, spring break entails. So many of our sons and daughters get swept up into wild parties and regrettable decisions. The culture tells them that drinking and "hooking up" are the best ways to make memories and unwind from the stress of school.
Instead, many of them end up with broken hearts.
But who can blame them for wanting to head off with all their friends on an unsupervised week in the sun and surf? We all have a desire for some kind of excitement in our lives because we know adventure is necessary to live out a good story. Good stories involve taking risks, not just playing it safe. And the type of spring break that is glorified in our culture certainly involves risk-taking and coming back with stories to tell, even if they aren’t particularly uplifting.
But we must offer a better way. And in so doing, we must also offer a better alternative.
How to Save Your Family: Do More Than Say No
Telling your student you won’t allow them to head to Panama City or Virginia Beach is the hard part. But you can actually make it easier on both of you if you invite your son or daughter to have a “white couch” talk to explain why you are saying “no”, and offer them something else to do instead.
A "white couch" chat in our household meant that I would take the time to actually sit on the couch with my child, often with hot chocolate in our hands, and have a heart-to-heart chat. Both my daughter and I fondly recall one such occasion when I wanted her to understand why I would not let her go to a particular movie when she was about 13. "All" the other kids were going - "all" of them, church friends included. But in my gut, it just didn't feel right to plunk down ten bucks for the "honor" of having my daughter watch sexual scenes, listen to foul language and witness violence. The name of the PG-13 movie has long been forgotten by both of us, but what remains a treasure in my daughter's heart is that I expressed my love and made myself vulnerable by sharing my heart.
My words were something like: "I love you more than any human being will ever love you. And I will always be here for you. For good or bad, God gave me the privilege of being your mom - the one to guide you, to love you, to show you the way. Please, let me be your mom - let me follow my heart in how to teach you, to protect you. I might be making a mistake in regard to this movie, but please allow me to make a mistake in my love for you. And you will always know that I did my best and that I followed my heart in being your mom. I will stand before God someday to account for how well I loved you. Please let me stand in honor. Now, let's think of something else wonderfully fun that you can do tonight." We both ended up crying and hugging - and it became a foundational moment in our relationship. And guess what - we found something else wonderful to do that night that actually included me and a few of her other friends - whose parents, as it turned out - had also been uncomfortable with the movie choice, but were afraid to say no.
So, you get the point. Really take the time to talk to your son or daughter and share your heart. Try to communicate that you trust your child’s judgment, but that you are saying “no” because you’ve seen for yourself what spring break can be like, and that and you know there are equally fun - and far safer - ways for them to spend their time. Explore alternatives together. Give your kid as much freedom as possible to come up with another plan that he or she will enjoy and that will include other friends.
There are many alternatives you can suggest that provide just as much- granted, a different kind of- excitement and adventure.
Over the last 20 years, there has been a steady rise in the number of students participating in “alternative spring breaks,” which are student-led service trips that place heavy influence on community building. Many universities offer programs to help students coordinate these trips. Encourage your student to call the student activities office or visit his or her school website and search “alternative spring break.”
There are many awesome nonprofit organizations like Habitat for Humanity that welcome volunteers of all ages, so they are perfect opportunities for families or groups of young adults to work together.
There is also a good chance that your local church will offer mission trips. Some mission trips focus solely on service while others also include a bit of vacation. Both are wonderful ways for students to be fed spiritually during their time off. Don't forget to check out the website of Young Life for ideas too - www.younglife.org.
While my children were in high school and college, we often took them and a few of their friends to Florida for break. There, we gave them freedom to roam and explore, but made a point of coming together for each night for dinner and a devotional. We cherish those trips as times when we grew closer as a family and we all felt the presence of God. Never underestimate the power of a family vacation.
A good spring break doesn’t have to involve going anywhere, either. I encourage you think creatively with your children about ways they can take full advantage of their time off.
What can you do to bond as a family? How can you give back to the community right where you live? What can you do to avoid turning on the television and wasting a chance to do something worthwhile?
Spring break really is a wonderful gift. The freedom it gives our children has tremendous potential to be used either to build them up or tear them down. It’s a time when we can also choose to be distant or involved in their lives. My guess is, you and your family can't afford to take the time for granted.