How to Avoid Dangers for Teens During Spring Break

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Parents whose values are at odds with un-chaperoned jaunts to Cancun or Aruba can provide some alternatives this spring

The last thing that parents want is a late-night overseas call informing them that their child has been hurt or gotten into trouble.

Every spring news stories abound about teen behavior (or, rather, misbehavior) during spring break: dangerously excessive alcohol consumption, sex (often unprotected) with multiple partners. Too often, some of those articles report date rape, abductions, murder and other crimes targeting wealthy teens traveling overseas during spring break. There's no shortage of advice from experts telling parents how to prepare their children so they come back safe.

But the most important and obvious question is often ignored: With all the temptations to drink too much, all the foolish behavior that results, and all the predators salivating in the wings to prey on irresponsible, vulnerable, wealthy teens, why do parents even allow their children to go?

Richard Morris and Jayne Pearl, co-authors of Kids, Wealth, and Consequences: Ensuring a Productive Financial Future for the Next Generation (Bloomberg, a Wiley imprint, 2010), propose, “Often parents don’t say no because they want their kids to have what they did not growing up. Today’s parents also want to be their kids’ friends, so saying no does not help the parents to be that cool mom or dad.”

Of course, putting one's foot down is likely to ignite a world war at home. But Morris and Pearl ask parents, “Isn’t that better than dealing with the potential fallout from a trip gone very wrong?” Skillful parents know that the best way to get a toddler to stop engaging in an annoying or even dangerous activity is to redirect their attention and energy. Just saying no is usually a recipe for a tantrum. It’s the same with teens.

The authors offer several practical alternatives to saying no. First, they suggest parents ask themselves if they think a spring break trip fits with their value system. If so, then they should figure out how to teach their teens to be as safe as possible. Parents whose values are at odds with unchaperoned jaunts to Cancun or Aruba can provide some alternatives this spring:

  • Find or organize a trip involving community-service in an exotic or fun destination. Habitat for Humanity, for instance, offers week-long volunteering stints in areas such as New Orleans that were hit hard by Hurricane Katrina. Such trips will be meaningful, educational, fun and much safer. Not only do these programs provide supervising adults, they tend to draw teens who are motivated to do good more than getting a good buzz.
  • Plan a family trip to someplace your teens have always wanted to go. Many kids, as they reach the double-digit years, think going away with Mom or Dad is uncool and not fun. Perhaps let them take a close friend, and find a destination where it is safe enough for you to allow them to wander off for discrete periods on their own. Many cruises have activities that appeal to different ages. They may gladly agree to a cruise or trip where they can hear one of their favorite musical bands or comedians.

Pearl and Morris point out, “The last thing that parents want is a late-night overseas call informing them that their child has been hurt or gotten into trouble. Instead of risking having your teen becoming a statistic, consider safer alternatives that will give you greater peace of mind and provide your teen with a more wholesome and just as fun spring break.”

Kids, Wealth, and Consequences helps affluent parents and their advisors understand how affluence affects children’s future success, happiness and motivation. The book explores everything from how and when parents should talk to their children about the often-uncomfortable topic of money, to what families in all income brackets can learn from the economic crisis about spending, saving and investing to help them better prepare themselves and their children to survive in any economic environment.

Jayne Pearl is a journalist and entertaining speaker, focusing on family business and financial parenting. She is author of Kids and Money: Giving Them the Savvy to Succeed Financially (Bloomberg Press) and has co-authored or ghost-written ten other books. Jayne began her career at Forbes and was former senior editor of Family Business magazine, to which she has contributed for 20 years.

Richard Morris is an adjunct professor at the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management and is principal of ROI Consulting, helping family owners expand and pass down their business to subsequent generations. Previously, he worked at his family's 80-year-old privately held company, Fel-Pro Incorporated, managing Marketing and then Acquisitions, and serving on the Board of Directors until its sale in 1998.

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