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Q. Our teenage son wants to go on a spring break trip to Daytona Beach in Florida. He's been working hard all year and has enough money for his plane ticket and some of his expenses. It's his senior year in high school, so he feels this will be one of his last hurrahs with his friends. I would love to let him go, but I am worried that he will get caught up in the antics that go on down there, especially since it's mostly college students. Should I let him go? Is there another activity that would be fun for him and his friends, but not quite as dangerous?
A. It's the unusual high school senior who could resist getting caught up in the antics that go along with spring break on Daytona Beach. Traditionally that's a vacation reserved for college students. To allow high school seniors to travel unchaperoned to a place that spells bikinis, booze, and beaches seems irresponsible. The standard for behavior at Daytona is not very high. It's almost expected that wild, uncontrolled, inappropriate actions will go unchecked.
Explain to your son that you realize that you might be appearing overprotective. Go on to say that you're fully aware that once in college you can't watch his every movement. But hold fast to your decision to not allow the trip as the fact remains that he isn't in college yet; you've decided to preserve the Daytona Beach experience for when he's more mature and has had experience managing himself away from home.
If by chance you have relatives in Daytona where your son and his friends can stay, where an aunt and uncle will keep track of their comings and goings, you might consider allowing him to go.
The point is, high school kids usually don't have the judgment to manage the rowdy behavior they will most likely encounter at Daytona Beach or any other traditional spring break locale. The issue is safety, not trust. Tell your son that you trust him but in such an environment where his self-control will be tested, you're not sure how he'll respond.
That's why it's important to tell your son that you're most concerned for his safety. Here's how: "I can't allow you to go because I love you so much. I would never recover if anything unforeseen happened to you."
It's difficult to be the lone parent spoiler. Therefore, invite the parents of the other boys intending to go to your home to discuss the trip. They're probably feeling the same reluctance as you are. After the meeting pose your concerns to all the boys. The only line you need to use is the following: "As responsible parents, we can't allow you to take the trip you've planned." Then offer the boys the following choice: "You can either travel to Daytona Beach with an adult who will monitor your behavior and whereabouts, or travel to Disney World on your own." At Disney World the expectation for adolescent behavior runs higher.
Don't expect your son to say, "No problem, Mom and Dad, I know you're just looking out for my best interests." He'll most likely argue and voice anger. His indignant show of emotion will pass and he'll probably take you up on the opportunity to travel to Disney World or to another more appropriate location with his pals.
Jan Faull, MEd, is a veteran parent educator and the author of four parenting books, including Darn Good Advice -- Baby and Darn Good Advice -- Parenting. She writes a biweekly parenting advice column for this site and a weekly parenting advice column in the Seattle Times. Jan Faull is the mother of three grown children and lives in the Seattle area.