One of the reasons I love summer is that spring break is over. I have seen so much bad stuff happen during spring break that I can’t imagine any parent allowing their kids to participate in that decadent revelry.

“Oh, I trust my kids,” you might reply. “I know they won’t get into trouble!”

Great! I trusted mine too, but I never let them go on spring break. And, I bet the parents of the seven kids shot in Panama City (March 28, 2015), trusted theirs, too. Three of them were hospitalized in critical condition.

The stats aren’t in from this year yet, but last year almost 1,000 teens were arrested for DUI in Walton and Bay Counties. A 19 year old from Nolensville, Tennessee was one of them. I don’t know him, but I did have the opportunity to share a stage with a now 30 year old man who served 10 years for DUI related vehicular homicide. This man was still overwhelmed with grief!

His sentence, in addition to 10 years in prison and other penalties, prevents him from ever obtaining a driver’s license. He complained that he has to have his dad or mom drive him to work. ”But,” he said. “What is that compared to the parents of the beautiful girl who will never drive, see her parents, or have a life of any kind.”

The only thing that keeps him going is the opportunity to talk with others about drinking and driving. I didn’t ask him if his parents had “trusted” him.

The news stories this year told of the continued over-use of alcohol and marijuana, but authorities stated the use of cocaine and other opiates was higher than they had ever seen before. How safe is anyone when people around you are made senseless by alcohol or other drugs.

I’m not going to make a long, detailed list of the all the trouble kids have faced while on spring break. If you watch the news or read the papers you are well aware of what goes on.

So the question becomes: what can a parent do? Teens all want to go to Florida during the spring. How can a parent prevent that?family vacation safe spring break ideas

First of all, God gave kids parents to teach them how to act – how to avoid trouble. Sure, lots of things are fun, but a mature person knows which fun things to enjoy, and which to avoid. Our jobs as parents is to modify, yes, even control, kids behavior until they are mature enough to do the right thing.

Start today to help your kids find spring break ideas, safe alternatives to spending a week with intoxicated, stoned, high teenagers. Following are some suggestions.

Plan a family vacation! What a way to spend some time with your kids. Make it a conversation tonight at dinner. Find out where everyone would like to go. Then ask them to search for something to do in the late winter in that area. Make that a part of dinner every night until the plans are firm.

If you can’t afford a vacation, make it a staycation. Let everyone find something to do within a couple hours from your home. At first your kids might object to vacationing with you. Let them vent without argument because you know what they don’t want to admit – they would really love to spend some time with the most important people in their lives – their parents.

Talk about what you might be able to do for spring break ideas. Let them know how much you have to spend. If they have income, you might ask them what they would like to contribute. That makes them feel useful and have ownership in the project.

Another great project is to find volunteer opportunities in your community or somewhere you can go as a family. Or, help your teen learn some leadership skills by having him/her put together a group from school or church to do some good work for others.

kids volunteering spring break ideas nashvilleStart by searching for volunteer opportunities in your community. Not every teen can afford to go far enough to find warm weather. But, kids will find staying a few days in a local church hall or a school gym while helping repaint the rooms at a nursery, day care center, or nursing home will warm their hearts as well as the sun on any beach.

Others who can afford to travel can do the same planning in the city of their choice.

Of course, they will need help finding the right place and the right project, but planning it will boost their self-esteem and their standing in their peer group. Look for help from school advisors and youth ministers who will jump at the chance to help put a project like this together.

Volunteer work will leave kids with a great feeling about themselves. They will come home knowing that they helped others, had fun, and did the right thing. Think how that will look in their college application essay.

P.S. If your teen decides to plan a volunteer event, please have them send me a note. Maybe I can find an organization to sponsor them. Or, if you would like to sponsor something like this, or know someone who would, let me know! Let’s see what we can do together to make spring break safer for our teens and young adults. Reach me at par.donahue@comcast.net.