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Is Your Teenage Daughter Ready for Spring Break?

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Should you, or should you not, allow your high school senior daughter to go on an unsupervised spring break trip with her friends? I unequivocally vote no, and here are my reasons why. And you can blame me if your daughter throws a fit.

Adolescents are not developmentally ready to handle the temptations and situations that occur at spring break gatherings. The prefrontal cortex (PFC) of the teenage brain, the executive center, is not fully developed in females until 18-19 years of age, and for males it’s early to mid 20’s. It’s harder for them to think before they act and to control their impulses, making them ripe for irresponsible decisions that can carry long-term consequences. Parents function as their PFC until maturity.

If you’ve ever asked your teenager after they made a dumb decision: “What were you thinking?” and received a blank expression in return, it verifies a physiologic truth: they weren’t thinking. The pleasure and risk-taking centers in their brain were activated before their slow-down-and-think-about-the-consequences brain could rein them in.

In addition, the overprotected and over supervised children of present-day have not developed the street smarts that would allow them to take care of themselves out in the real world. This makes them more vulnerable to dangerous situations than previous generations.

“Why don’t you trust me?” is a common refrain girls throw back as a result of hearing no to their request. But your denial isn’t so much about not trusting them; it’s more about not trusting situations they are likely to encounter at spring break sites that my mom used to refer to as “sin city”. And it is similar to other boundaries you have placed when they were younger.

You went downstairs periodically during their parties to let kids know adults were around: you didn’t fully trust groups of young teenagers. You “spied openly” when they started on social networking sites because you didn’t trust the cyber-world. You chaperone spring break trips because you don’t trust the ‘anything goes’ environment prevalent at such events; too many older guys and booze and sexual attractions.

Some teens argue that they will be in college in 6 months anyway, but a college campus is a safer place for growing up than a beach; most people are of the same age and circumstance, and there is some structure and support nearby. Hopefully girls will have learned to trust their radar and intuition when it comes to guys and situations they find themselves in.

A win-win would be to let them go with a group of friends and a trusted adult chaperone. Going off to college is a big step in a lifetime of letting go. At that point young women know they are fully responsible for their lives, their safety, and their decisions. Until that time, parents have a responsibility to restrict their daughter’s experiences to ones they are socially, emotionally, and biologically equipped to handle.

Dr. Tim Jordan is a leading expert on parenting girls from 2 – 20 years of age.  He is the author is Sleeping Beauties, Awakened Women: Guiding Transformation of Adolescent Girls. He is also an international speaker, media expert and school consultant.  He often speaks about girls and their journey through adolescence, relationship aggression, friendship, cliques and bullying and the best practices for parenting girls. For more information visit www.drtimjordan.com.

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