Summer vacation is every parent's challenge. What should your expectations be for your son or daughter who are home from college and for your high school junior or senior?
To begin with, summer vacation should not be seen as a free-for-all. High school and college age young people should not see the summer as a vacation from life and responsibility.
As parents, what is reasonable? Depending on the age of your children, you need to hold your children accountable regarding their social choices and social behavior. If they are under age, you should not condone illegal drinking. Smoking pot and using other street drugs is equally illegal.
The refrain that everyone else is doing it, should not be tolerated as an acceptable rationale for noncompliance and illegal behavior in your home. As a parent, you need to step up and be clear on these issues and the consequences that will follow if your son or daughter chooses to be reckless in this area.
During the summer, illegal social drinking among the under aged escalates dramatically. In many arenas, that is so because many adults become lax and much more tolerant of our children's non-compliance. A growing number of parents have copped out and taken the position that "they are drinking anyway, but at least they are safe and not driving."
Unfortunately, that is such an irresponsible position to take. First of all, many are not safe and too many do drive. Maybe we need to re-visit the drinking age, but until we do, it is still the law. It is not helpful to encourage our young adults to pick and choose the rules they are to follow. As parents, it is our responsibility to lead by example.
At times, it is easier as a parent to say nothing. If you confront your son about a reckless and/or illegal social decision he has made, it could escalate into a very serious confrontation. However, silence is often taken by our children as approval or at least tolerance of their choices.
Recently a group of high school coeds were drinking, which was now a regular part of their weekend ritual. They were bored so they decided to make Molotov cocktails and throw them into the woods and at a person passing by. They were intoxicated. When confronted about this behavior, they indicated that they were bored and wanted to have fun.
Upon further investigation, these high school juniors and seniors had been caught drinking a number of times by local authorities this past school year. Their parents were notified, but it seems little has been done to address this behavior.
What will it take before we take more deliberate action? Does another teenager or person of any age have to be killed or maimed before we act? Summer partying is really burdensome for parents, but parents need to work together and support each other. As parents, we need to have a zero tolerance for under age drinking. There have been too many deaths already this summer due to drunk driving.
High school and college age students should be expected to work during the summer. The vacation should not be one big party. The money made during summer break should be used for personal needs like car, gas and insurance, and for college students, college expenses. Too many teenagers grow up believing that most of life is an entitlement. Too many don't believe that they should work for anything. Some have this distorted view that their parents should provide them with everything they need and want, no matter how reckless and irresponsible they might have been.
Students should not be workaholics during the summer. They should have lots of time for fun and socializing with friends, but not at the expense of their families.
During the summer, our homes should not become flophouses where we see our kids only at the refrigerator or in the laundry room, not doing laundry but rather dropping it off for maid service.
Family life in the summer should not be suspended. Eating together should still be a norm. Our children should still have household responsibilities. They are not living in a resort with room service, especially if their friends are staying over on a regular basis.
Curfew is another delicate issue. Curfews should be flexible and age appropriate. For juniors or seniors in high school, a flexible weekday curfew is fine as long as our high school coed gets up for work and takes care of business around the house. Weekends can be even more flexible, but this writer doe not endorse 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning for high school juniors and seniors. There are not many places that will welcome seventeen and eighteen year olds till that hour of the morning. Just hanging out is too vague.
College curfews present a more challenging circumstance. The word reasonable should be used. One should expect one's college coed to get up every day for work and take care of business at home as well. Staying out late is not the end of the world, especially since most college kids only go out at 9pm.
However, I don't think it is wrong to expect your college coed to drink legally and not to drink and drive. Also it is not wrong to expect them as a norm to come home at some point to sleep and if they are not coming home, to communicate that with one's parent.
Sleeping out during the summer can also present a problem. It is the summer and sleep outs are fun, but also can be dangerous. Parents of high school coeds should not support unsupervised sleep outs, especially at people's homes. It puts everyone, parents and teenagers alike, in a tough spot. Parents should call to verify that the sleep over is okay and that a bona fide adult will be there to supervise.
Most teenagers will hate it and try to guilt you into not embarrassing them. If we all do it, it won't be embarrassing except to the parent who does not care.
College sleepovers are different. We should remind our college coeds not to put themselves in potentially volatile circumstances. No one is invincible.
Probably the most important thing we need to do during the summer is to keep the avenue of communication open and really try to listen and hear what our children are saying!