With Spring Break right around the corner, students all across the state (and country) are gearing up for a welcomed week off from school. While some will opt to celebrate the time off at home, many others will plan trips to popular Spring Break destinations where exposure to unsafe behaviors like underage drinking and drug use is often unavoidable.
“Studies continue to show that students who vacationed with friends during spring break dramatically increased their alcohol use,” said Jackie Griffin, Executive Director of LiveFree! Coalition, an alliance that promotes awareness about the harmful effects of underage drinking, binge drinking, marijuana use, synthetic use and other substance abuse among youth, young adults and adults. “Whether your teen is planning a day trip to the beach with one friend or a week-long vacation with a group, now is the best time to address Spring Break safety and your expectations, before they find themselves in a dangerous situation.”
To help, Griffin shares the following tips:
- Remember that the legal drinking age is 21 years of age. Study up on the alcohol laws and understand the reasons behind why they exist. The brain is still developing into the mid-20s and underage drinking hinders cognitive development. Also, look into laws related to open containers and public intoxication and discuss the very real repercussions of poor decisions with your teen.
- Make sure they have a buddy. When in an unfamiliar location it is important to stick together. Encourage your teen to partner up with one person whom they trust and whom you know. Using the buddy system ensures no one is left alone or with strangers.
- Discuss their itinerary. Make sure you know exactly where your teen will be vacationing. Take down phone numbers, hotel rooms and addresses and compile a timeline of activities planned. Know departure and arrival times and establish times to check in. Reinforce the idea that your teen is expected to call you to let you know they have arrived and returned safely every day.
- Talk about the statistics: The facts are out there and, unfortunately, they can be alarming. Before seeing your child off, discuss the statistics related Spring Break and underage drinking and drug use. Excessive drinking impairs your judgment which can make you more susceptible to accidents, crime, violence and sexual assault. Make sure your teen is aware.
- Discuss alternative spring break ideas. Many universities and youth groups offer opportunities for students to spend their time off from school making a difference. Whether it is building homes or assisting in clean-up efforts, there are many trip options that offer the opportunity to serve others far from the party atmosphere.
“Spring Break does not have to be spent partying or partaking in unsafe activities,” added Griffin. “Teens need to learn how to celebrate responsibly, and that is a discussion parents need to initiate now and on an on-going basis.”
For more tips, and an in-depth discussion about Spring Break Safety, LiveFree!, in partnership with WEDU, St. Petersburg College, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Pinellas County Schools, Pinellas Park Police Department, Operation PAR and others, will host the 9th Annual 2013 Florida’s Kids & Alcohol Partnerships for Success: The Power and Promise of Community on March 21 at the Palladium Theater. Doors open at 4:00 p.m. Discussion topics will include:
- positive outcomes of community
- underage alcohol use
- synthetic marijuana use
- prescription drug misuse and abuse
- peer pressures youth face
If you have any specific questions you would like to see discussed, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.