Spring break is approaching for Charlotte Mecklenburg schools, when thousands of young people will head out to the beach or some other exotic destination with friends to celebrate a vacation from rules and responsibilities. When April 2-6th arrives, they will enjoy freedom from parents and other authority figures, and at times will ignore the part of their brain dedicated to reasoning. Unfortunately, many of them will think they are having a unique, once in a lifetime experience that will be lost if they do not participate in daring, risky behavior. Often these behaviors will involve alcohol or sex, and often both. Some young people go into this week with more experience than others in these areas. It creates an unfair playing field that can have tragic results.
Butler High School in Matthews, will probably have a wrecked car in full view somewhere on the front lawn to remind students of some of the dangers associated with irresponsible behavior over the break. In the past, Butler has staged a dramatization with local EMS and police depicting a fatal accident. When students are exposed to this spontaneously, it can have a lasting impression. For some the reaction is usually, “That won’t happen to me.”
Parents know the temptations teens will be exposed to, mainly because they have their own memories of Spring break. It doesn’t matter how long ago they were in school, where they went, or who they were with. They know what an exhilarating feeling it is to be totally on your own, with the only goal being to have a good time. They know the pressures of exams, papers due and performances in sports or the arts, and realize these can be overwhelming. They had the very same pressures. They fear for their children, simply because they know being seventeen or twenty is unlike any other time. Thinking about Spring break brings back all of those moments of youth, when the entire world revolves around another person, or self worth depends on fitting in and being accepted. Back then, these were the most important things in their lives, and it was a challenge to respond maturely, because after all they were young too.
What young people don’t realize is that Spring break does not dictate much of anything. They will not lose the opportunity to be accepted for who they are in this one week. They may, however, lose some of their self worth by simply following the crowd, and ignoring their own judgment. And they won’t be sacrificing having someone mean the world to them, although they may find someone to mean something to them for an hour or a day. In this brief time their actions could contribute to someone else losing his or her self respect. When that happens, it affects both people involved. They may not think about that during Spring break, but it may settle in afterwards and stay awhile.
What they should try to do is think about these things now. No matter how they feel about the adults in their lives, they should realize this: they were all seventeen or twenty at one time, and they know what they are talking about when they issue warnings. They hope their children realize the rest of their lives will provide them with many more opportunities to enjoy freedom and fun.
It doesn’t all have to happen in this one week. Most adults would say, “If you approach Spring break without reason or forethought, you may lose the most important opportunity you have when you are seventeen or twenty – becoming eighteen or twenty-one.”