A version of this article first appeared in the Centre Daily Times.
The long awaited vacation is almost here; you've spent months researching, planning and saving and can't wait to have some much needed and well-deserved down time with your family. A few minutes spent planning for safety can improve the odds that the vacation will be everything you want it to be, and maybe even provide a few teachable moments for your kids.
Safety starts at check-in
Professional desk clerks never state a room number; they will hand over a key or card and point to the room number. You have no idea who in the lobby may be observing a member of your family or your possessions with a special interest. Ask for a different room if a clerk announces the number to an unintended audience; No one should know exactly where you are unless you decide to tell them
Many family themed resorts offer special program s for children and teens, but parental vigilance is required as these programs are rarely subject to the same standards as child care centers. Ask the same kinds of questions you'd ask about a summer camp -- who are the staff? How are they screened? What kind of training do they receive from the hotel? Some resorts now contract with licensed child care providers for programs and babysitting, in that case parents can feel more secure.
Even though parents really need to relax on vacation, they can’t relax when it comes to knowing the whereabouts of their children. Younger ones must be kept within eye sight; adolescents and older kids should be given a time limit to report back to parents ranging from 15-30 minutes for younger adolescents and earn the right to be gone up to 60 - 90 minutes. These same time limits for checking in apply if parents chose to leave an adolescent in charge of younger siblings while the parents enjoy resort life. This can be a risky proposition -- parents deserve privacy and vacation time à deux, but it's not easy to combine romance and family time. Safety first, couples time second.
A special thought about beach safety: adolescent girls in bathing suits can often appear to be older than they are. When sunbathing without a chaperone, they may attract attention from men or older boys. A young girl may be extremely flattered by this attention and equally unprepared to respond. This topic makes a great pre-vacation conversation and is a wonderful opportunity to share family values and beliefs about topics ranging from respect to puberty to dating safety.
This is a good time to remember some basic physiology: Sexual arousal is autonomic and occurs in response to conscious or unconscious stimuli. People do not choose when to get aroused any more than they choose when to blink. Most sexually mature (and maturing!) human beings experience all or part of the sexual response cycle while sleeping. This simple fact of life should be considered when making sleeping arrangements for vacation: it is best for people who do not mean to share accidental arousal not to share beds. Put the adolescents on the floor with sleeping bags if there are not enough beds to go around.
Don't forget the basics -- be cautious, use common sense, supervise little ones at all times and ALWAYS know the whereabouts of adolescents and teens.... and keep in mind this special perspective from a sexuality educator dedicated to promoting safe and healthy families!
Rosenzweig is also author of The Sex-Wise Parent: The Parents Guide to Protecting Your Child, Strengthening Your Family and Talking to Kids about Sex, Abuse and Bullying. For more information, read her blog and follow @JanetRosenzweig on Twitter.