With spring break approaching, many parents are thinking about how their college student might spend the week off and perhaps muttering two little words: “Oh, no.”

If your child is, in fact, going on one of the typical spring break warm-weather excursions, Butler University Vice President of Student Affairs Levester Johnson recommends a number of things parents can do to ease their own minds.

He said parents should make sure their child:

— Is traveling in a group. There is safety in numbers.

— Has a plan for traveling and a place to stay. Be sure to get location information.

— Is prepared in case of an emergency. Do they have a health insurance card? Do they have a credit card they can use if they find themselves in a financial emergency?

“It’s OK for parents and family members to ask what their plan is,” Johnson said. “Parental concern is a natural instinct that should not be discounted or discouraged or pushed aside. Those are the kinds of things that are going to help assist your student in being safe. They still have maturation to go through, and that’s what parent involvement is all about – helping them through.”

He also recommends that students follow the same safety rules they do when they’re at school:

— If they’re going out, stay in pairs or groups.

— Don’t leave drinks unattended.

— They need to be careful whom they introduce themselves to.

Some parents will be uncomfortable having their child go off on their own. Johnson said they need to consider whether their student has shown maturity and responsibility while at college. He suggests negotiating some ground rules, including who’s paying for the trip.

“Tell them: Bring me your plan,” he said. “Convince me, and show me you’re responsible enough to handle this now. If they can, parents might want to give them the opportunity. If not, ask for more complete plans and suggest that this is more likely to be approved next year.”

Of course, spring break doesn’t have to be a bacchanalian free-for-all. Many schools offer alternative spring break trips to do community-service projects under supervision. “Ask your student: Does your school have a program like that, and how can they get involved?” Johnson suggested.

And some students will simply want to come home and relax. For them, Johnson suggests that parents plan a few activities to do together – perhaps bringing the student to work for a few hours or going out shopping or for lunch.

“This is a good time for you to reconnect with your student,” he said. “It’s not far-fetched for you to ask them to clear some time that you can spend together. It’s a good time for you to ask how their semester is going.”

Dr. Levester Johnson, better known as L.J. on Butler University’s campus, became the vice president for student affairs in December 1997. The Milwaukee native joined Butler in 1992 as the assistant dean of students for residence education. To schedule an interview with Levester Johnson, contact Marc Allan, (317) 940-9822 or mallan@butler.edu.

To find other Butler University experts, visit http://www.butler.edu/experts/.

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