Dr. Kim Dennis

Spring Break Tests Boundaries
Trust Your Family’s Values

Spring break for teens may include travel with other families or organizations – with the typical teen delighting in the fact that their parents are NOT going! And with some teens going to places like Mexico and Costa Rica where the legal drinking age is 18, alcohol and drugs are more easily accessible. The reality is spring break can be a tempting time even for the most well adjusted teens.  

As parents, we are responsible for monitoring our children’s activities–covering who, what, where and when. We may face the tough, often unpopular, decision of saying no to a spring break trip that lacks adequate supervision. If I know the supervising family shares my family’s values and boundaries regarding underage consumption of alcohol or drugs, I’m comfortable sending my teen away with them–trusting the years of training my family has given my teen. Another consideration is the supervisor to teen ratio, keeping it in the 1:3 or 1:4 neighborhood.
In all my years as a psychiatrist, I’ve learned that kids pay closer attention to what we do rather than what we say. Toddlers, tweens and young adults behave in certain ways and believe in certain principles/values based on what they learn from family members and the community/culture that surrounds them. If we focus on health, self care, interdependent and mutually fulfilling relationships, balance, and giving back to our community, the chances that our kids will follow suit are high. How we live on vacation as a family impacts how they will live on vacation as young adults.
Teens turn to alcohol and drugs to deal with uncomfortable emotions such as stress, peer pressure, pain and sadness, loss or other forms of trauma. By being aware of what our teens are experiencing and feeling, we can support them in finding healthy and constructive ways to address these challenges so they won’t resort to self-destructive behaviors. When our kids are living healthy, balanced lives and feel loved and supported, they are significantly less likely to turn to drugs and alcohol. In this respect, prevention really does start at home.
Dr. Kim Dennis
CEO & Medical Director of SunCloud Health

Dr. Dennis is a parent of three, two of whom are teens living on the North Shore. She is CEO and Medical Director of SunCloud Health, an outpatient treatment center in Northbrook.


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