Herald Journal Columns
April 10, 2006, Herald Journal

Vacation tips for parents


Spring break is an important time of the year for many students. When I was teaching, I was always amazed at how many students went on spring break, traveling to a different state without their parents or adult supervision.

I grew up on a farm, so a spring break vacation was almost unheard of, not to mention traveling without my parents. And when I went to college, my money was tied up in college expenses, so taking a spring break was not in my budget. I still spent enjoyable spring break time with family and friends (who were also broke or working), however.

Vacations are certainly important, and family vacations provide opportunities for families to relax and focus on family time together without chores and what-not calling family members away. Time can just be spent enjoying each other’s company (hopefully), and fun, quality time can be spent together in a relaxed atmosphere – well-deserved for any family.

Unsupervised spring breaks for teens, though, can be situations where teens are putting themselves at risk. Information from the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign notes that travel industry experts show that an estimated one-in-seven high school students under the age of 18 take unsupervised trips during spring break.

Even teens who stay at home can be at risk during this vacation time. Unsupervised time, money to spend, and peer pressure “to have it all” can be a recipe for risky behavior, the Campaign noted.

Surveys show that girls are more vulnerable to the peer pressures and are more likely to engage in risky behaviors while unsupervised.

The website www.theantidrug.com offers these tips for helping keep teens safe during spring break and other vacation times.

• Set rules, especially no alcohol or drugs. Bbe specific about the expectations, and establish consequences for rules. Speaking candidly about the dangers of using drugs and alcohol is important.

• Help prepare your teen for travel. Give teens tips to protect themselves, such as using a buddy system. Don’t hesitate to role-play scenarios that might put your teen in difficult situations.

• Keep monitoring, and ask questions. Whether your son or daughter may be traveling with you as a family, with another family, or staying home during vacation times, you will probably not be with her or him at all times. Know your teen’s itinerary, who will be supervising the group (if you are not), and 24-hour contact information. Monitoring how your teen spends his or her unsupervised time is always important, whether at home or on vacation.

An Easter craft

“Highlights” magazine, April 2006, offered this simple Easter egg craft that reminds me of a version of “Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down.”

Take the top off a plastic Easter egg and push a piece of clay into the bottom. Put the top back on and decorate the egg by adding facial features with a marker and gluing on cut-paper ears and a cottonball tail in the back.

Tip your bunny and it will wobble, but come right back up.

Minnesota attractions

When my children had a couple of days off from school recently, my husband and I, along with our children, investigated destinations for a day’s trip to a museum or other attraction. A day of swimming and simple playing were our activities of choice, but there are plenty of things to do in Minnesota, so each week for the next few weeks, I will highlight just a couple of worthy Minnesota destinations. Sometimes, we all need reminders of all the great places in our own state to visit.

• The historic Murphy’s Landing is a living history village of the 1800s. More than 40 period buildings, that were once in danger of being destroyed, have been moved to the Landing’s 88-acre site in Shakopee for their preservation and restoration, and the enjoyment and education of visitors, the website www.thingstodo.com/states/MN/twincities.html notes.

• A trip to our state capitol is definitely a worthwhile trip (depending on your children’s ages), especially for school-aged children and older. Original furnishings and vivid colors of the restored Senate, House, Supreme Court, and the Rathskeller café, by acclaimed architect Cass Gilbert, add to the experience, the website notes.

Earth Day

Spend some special time with your family by honoring Earth Day Saturday, April 22. Planting a tree or picking up litter, etc. are certainly worthwhile activities to demonstrate to children that our earth matters, and we have to take care of it.