Helping your teen and your family make the most of this time off.
By Anne Vaccaro Brady
If your freshman is skipping the fun in the sun Spring Break and heading home instead, realize his expectations for these 9 or 10 days might be different than yours. You’ve been through Thanksgiving and Winter Break before, so you know how this works. Except that now it’s the second semester and Spring Break, which means that to-do list you’ve been working on will likely be facing off with his do-nothing plan. Here are some ideas on how to navigate.
Taking advantage of Spring Break to:
Relax Your freshman might simply want to chill out during this week. She’s been through the winter doldrums and now wants to hang out, catch up on sleep, binge watch some shows she’s missed and eat home cooked food, or at least something not created in a dining hall. Basically, it’s a chance for your teen to get rejuvenated. As a parent, don’t dismiss this. College stresses out a lot of kids and after two or three months on campus, they’re ready for a breather.
Though your freshman will want to spend time with her friends, unfortunately colleges don’t all schedule Spring Break for the same week. My kids usually shared the weekend at the beginning or end of their break with their old friends. Hopefully yours has a friend who is home too, commuting to college or going to school a short drive or bus/train ride away. This time to reconnect with old friends is very important for some kids.
Your freshman might actually want to use the time to hang with you and/or the rest of the family and go shopping, out to dinner, take in a movie or go to a concert. Most kids still enjoy spending time with their families, just not every moment of every day. Make the most of what yours gives you, but don’t ask for much more.
Get a jump on a summer job or internship Some parents push their freshmen to work or intern or volunteer over Spring Break to pump up their resumes, but your student can probably make better use of his time by setting himself up for the summer. With a little advance planning, he can schedule a couple of interviews for when he’s home. If that’s not possible, then spending a day or two sending out resumes and making calls asking about opportunities works, too. Freshmen rarely get summer internships, but a job, even in an unrelated field, will provide the valuable work experience (and money for next semester) he needs to complement the skills he’s developing in college. It’s important to learn how to work.
Catch up on homework Not every professor respects the need for a “break” and plenty assign term papers and reading for the week, while others schedule tests for the day or two after students return to campus. Your freshman can use her time at home with its lack of distractions to take care of these assignments, which hopefully won’t consume her entire break.
File FAFSA and taxes Depending upon the date of your freshman’s Spring Break, you might still have time to work on these together before his college’s financial aid deadline and Tax Day.
Talk about your freshman’s changing plans During second semester, freshmen tend to question their major, consider transferring colleges and/or figure out whether their roommate is really someone they want to live with again. Use your time together to discuss these and other issues. Your role is to listen and then help her find solutions to her problems.
Take care of appointments Overdue visits to the dentist, eye doctor, dermatologist, gynecologist should be scheduled for this week. This is also a good time to refill prescriptions.
Address serious issues If you discover your teen is dealing with depression, binge drinking, an eating disorder, drug use or poor grades, step in now to get him help. Don’t assume or believe it will pass. Unaddressed issues like these get worse when a student returns to campus. Read my post on college students and depression to learn the warning signs and how to find help for your teen.
Share your thoughts on Spring Break expectations vs. reality in the comments section below.