Dr. Wes and Ben: Recently my near-18-year-old daughter asked whether she could accompany her boyfriend, his dad and his sister to spring break 2011 at South Padre Island. This is work related for the dad, but is actually a week before our local spring break. I am inclined to say no because I've googled the spring break site and see lots of drinking, but have not yet answered. If I do say yes, I would suggest a powwow where the parents set up terms with respect to curfew, sleeping, activity, drugs, alcohol, safe spots, etc. What do you think?
Ben: A few months ago, I got into my first car accident. Drops of freezing rain were falling as I was driving down Clinton Parkway, and I was trying to stop behind another car at a red light. A strip of black ice thought I shouldn't. The man I hit was very forgiving, and the damage was hardly fatal, but I was shaken up, all the same.
However, I've driven down that street many times since then without an incident.
After all, Clinton Parkway didn't cause me to hit anybody; I did that myself. Many drivers, either wiser or luckier, passed through that light without a hitch. My unwariness of my surroundings got me in trouble, not the surroundings themselves.
Your question is not a matter of location. What it boils down to is the responsibility of your daughter and whether you trust her. It would certainly be a good idea to talk to the boyfriend's dad to discuss some ground rules and establish some accountability, but there is no need to veto the trip unless your daughter's past actions testify against her.
Wes: I’ve written on this topic most springs since Double Take began, and my usual advice is simply DON’T DO IT for anyone under 18. There are very few places on earth less teen-friendly than spring break destinations in March, at least from a parent’s perspective. However, the one method I’ve suggested in the past is for a parent or group of parents to accompany their 17-year-olds and offer the same level of supervision they would if the kids remained in Lawrence on say, prom night. By the way, more than one parent has written to say that this plan made all the difference in the world when the inevitable crisis hits.
I do agree with Ben however, that the issue is more about your daughter, her boyfriend and his dad. While I’m not a big believer in trust in the teen years, I did some additional Q&A on this particular situation and learned that the daughter has a long and verifiable history of forethought and good judgment. She is not a consumer of drugs and alcohol and just wants to go for the music scene and to spend time with her BF. You’ll notice I said “verifiable.” Most teens can (and will) beg for their parents’ trust, but far fewer have shown themselves capable of the limit stretching this reader described. Her daughter appears to be one who can handle the responsibility.
I suggest you run the plan, confer with the dad until you’re comfortable, stay in touch with your daughter and strictly advise her take precautions against spiked drinks (e.g., only consume bottled soft drinks with screw-on lids that she broke the seal on and never leave them sitting on the table). If all this checks out, then things will probably turn out OK. However, other readers need to make a determination for their own children.