This month, hundreds of thousands of college students (and let’s face it, high school students, too) will crowd some of the most popular beaches in what is now popularly described as “the spring break phenomenon.” Spring break is an outlet for the urges that students may already be struggling with and the pressure they may already be struggling under pre-college (though perhaps these struggles and pressures are amplified in college).
The normalization of spring break-type behavior is at the heart of pop culture. And if you’re like most parents, the idea of spring break elicits thoughts of partying, alcohol, and general debauchery. But the realities of spring break actually go much deeper than that, and we hope that you’ll be able to inspire a truly restful and redeemed spring break experience for your teen this year. Discipleship in this area needs to happen now—before students start their freshman year of college, suddenly navigating new independence.
We all have basic cravings
What’s your absolute favorite treat? Picture it in your mind for a second. For now, let’s say your favorite thing in life is apple pie. You just have to have it, so you go to the store, buy the ingredients, think about how you’ll prepare all of the necessary steps as you drive home, then at long last bake the pie. It’s everything you’ve been craving. But then it’s gone.
In Made to Crave, author Lysa TerKeurst writes, “God made us to crave—to desire eagerly, want greatly, and long for Him. But Satan wants to do everything possible to replace our craving for God with something else.” When we get a craving, that desire can easily become an all-consuming thought (like the apple pie). But not all cravings are for food, of course. We crave affirmation, social status, adoration on social media, sexual satisfaction, entertainment, relationships, and so much more.
Spring break is a feeding ground for cravings
Spring break can be a wonderful time of relaxation and rejuvenation for our kids (and for ourselves!) before wrapping up the end of the school year. No tests, no homework, just straight up chill time. But it’s also the perfect opportunity for the enemy to seep into our thoughts and remind us of our basic cravings. Having cravings is not a bad thing, but it can become a bad thing when instead of bringing those desires to the Lord, we take matters into our own hands. Our cravings ultimately point back to the fact that we are inherently made to crave God but often respond to our cravings with unsatisfying things.
A teen living in 2020 can’t really escape from the social pressures of school when they finally reach spring break. For us parents, when we were teens we may have gone on vacation or stayed at home for a week and truly unplugged from school, drama, and friendships because we had the space to do so. But our kids are connected to it all 24/7 thanks to social media, constant texting, and the dreaded reality of FOMO. Enter: cravings.
Say your single teen sees a happy couple on a beautiful sunny beach in Florida. Are they likely to view the post and say, “That’s wonderful, I’m so happy for them!” Or, more realistically, will they be launched into feelings of loneliness, longing, and craving for what they wish they had instead of that happy couple? Their friends go on exotic vacations, couples flaunt their relationships in a string of romantic posts on Instagram, and other more “popular” students get invited to tons of cool parties (that’s what our kids are telling themselves, at least). And it all boils down to a few basic human desires, three of which are for acceptance, status, and romance. Of course, these things may look different depending on the teen, but those are a few common themes that their minds and hearts often tell them that they’re greatly lacking.
When our kids have cravings like this, it’s not uncommon for them to attempt to fill those voids with things like Netflix, TikTok, food, or even in venting to their best friend (a cycle that spins and spins endlessly if the loneliness is mutual). They can slip into gluttony just like that, feeding their basic desires with social media to portray a better version of themselves, with a new relationship that isn’t really all that great, but looks great online, with alcohol and partying culture (for more on that, read our Parent’s Guide to Teens & Alcohol), the list goes on.
How your teen can have a better spring break
Loneliness and craving a romantic relationship is just a drop in the bucket of dissatisfaction in our lives. Your teen may be experiencing completely different cravings, but the temptation to fill those voids with temporary and potentially unhealthy things remains the same no matter the craving.
If you want to help your teen to have a better spring break (no matter how your family spends it), talk with them about the reality of our cravings and get to the root issue of what they’re craving, why they’re craving it, and how God wants to redeem that area of their life.
Before bringing the discussion to your teen, take a moment to reflect on the cravings you might have. What in your life do you crave most? Even more, what craving do you have that distracts you from seeking God above all else?
Some good questions to have your teen ponder if they’re trying to figure out whether or not their actions are helpful are:
- Is this God’s best for me?
- Does this point me towards Him, or away from Him?
- Is this ultimately growing me, or holding me back from God’s best in my life?
P.S. Check out our Parent’s Guide to Spring Break for more!