- - Tuesday, February 25, 2014


Culture challenge of the week: Spring break

Amid freezing temperatures across the country, spring break plans are well underway. And 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 unwind and make memories.

Instead, many of them end up with broken hearts.

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 excitement 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.

We must offer a better alternative.

How to save your family: Do more than say no

Telling your children you won’t allow them to head to Panama City or Virginia Beach is the hard part. You can 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 something else to do instead.

A “white couch” chat in our household meant that I would take the time to sit on the couch with my child and have a heart-to-heart chat. 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 — church friends included. But in my gut, it just didn’t feel right to plunk down 10 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 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.”

We both ended up crying and hugging, and it became a foundational moment in our relationship. We found something else wonderful to do that night that included me and a few of her other friends whose parents also were uncomfortable with the movie choice but were afraid to say “no.”

You get the point: Take 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 you know there are equally fun and 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 friends.

Over the past 20 years, there has been a steady rise in the number of students participating in “alternative spring breaks” — student-led service trips that emphasize community building. Many universities offer programs to help students coordinate such trips. Encourage your child to call the student activities office or visit the school website and search “alternative spring break.”

There are many nonprofit groups such as 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 church will offer mission trips. Some trips focus solely on service while others include a bit of vacation. Both are wonderful ways for students to be fed spiritually during their time off. Check YoungLife.org for ideas.

A good spring break doesn’t have to involve going anywhere. I encourage you think creatively with your children about how they can take full advantage of their time off.

Spring break is a gift. The freedom it gives our children has tremendous potential to build them up or tear them down. It’s a time when we can 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.

Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at [email protected]

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