Now that the Leaving Certificate has ended and all that exam stress has dissipated and the house has returned to some semblance of normality, parents can finally start to enjoy the summer.
And yet for many parents, a new kind of stressor is visiting them as they decide whether or not to let their teenage son or daughter go on a post Leaving Cert holiday with their classmates.
This can be a very challenging time for parents. Especially after hearing such horror stories like that of a young man who tragically died after falling from the balcony of a holiday apartment in Spain.
Tragedies like this, unfortunately, are not uncommon and serve as a stark reminder to all parents the dangers of these types of holidays. It is something I talk to students about a lot as we come to the end of sixth year.
As I delineate the dangers out there and instruct them to look out for each other, I can see it in their faces — they really do not believe anything bad can happen to them.
I suppose that’s the folly of youth, but it can have devastating ramifications for their future, if they do not heed the warning signs.
I know it is something I’m going to have to deal with eventually as my own daughter moves towards the teenage years, but it is certainly something I am very concerned about.
Because I know the importance of creating independence and the importance of trusting your child to do the right thing when you’re not watching but I am also very cognisant of all that can go wrong on such a holiday.
So I, personally, find these types of post exam holidays very challenging to talk to parents about. I went on one myself and as a 19-year-old boy I’ve seen first hand what goes on. And I remember even thinking then, as we were boarding the plane returning home how thankful I was, no one was injured.
When parents come to me and ask me, should I let my son go on the trip with the boys?
I go through a few questions with them that I feel all parents should ask themselves before acquiescing to their teenager’s persuasive demands:
1. No one knows your child like you do. The ultimate question is; can you trust them to make the right decision when you are not watching? What is their track record? Have they been involved in any incident that illustrated poor judgment? Well, if the answer is yes I would have grave concerns about their safety.
2. Is your teenage child impressionable? Are they easily led? Would they have the strength of character to say no to something they do not want to do?
3. What are their peers like? Do they call over to your house? Do you know them well? And do you trust them to look out for each other? Or are they the kind of friends that push each other into showing off? Your child’s peer group is such an important factor in this huge decision. What are they like? Have you talked to their parents about their apprehensions?
4. Listen to your gut instinct. We so often ignore it but when something happens we find ourselves asking, why didn’t I listen to that feeling?
5. Allowing your child to go on a summer holiday after the Leaving Cert is not something that should be taken lightly.
While you want to give your child freedom as they move towards young adult life the reality is; you still have to make those difficult decisions that keeps your child safe.
So, when parents ask me I go through those series of questions with them and I ultimately ask them one basic important question; can you trust your child?
As parents, we all want to instil trust in our children but when you add alcohol to the equation coupled with the fact that it will probably be their first holiday unfettered by family you have the potential for behaviours you just wouldn’t expect your child to be engaged in.
The Leaving Cert is a stressful time for all involved and the holiday that usually accompanies it can be
a wonderful time for letting off steam.
But as parents we get to decide the shape of that holiday. I know many parents book a holiday for the entire family, therefore removing the potential for calamity.
This is certainly something I will consider when our time comes to make this decision.