We are getting ready to go on spring break with our 13- and 15-year old, and all I’ve heard about is how awful it will be. How can I make this a trip they – all of us – will enjoy?”
Raise your hand if you would love to be whisked away to a dream destination on someone else’s dime. I see plenty of hands in the air but you know whose hands are down low? Teens!
Seriously, mom + dad, how could you do something as terrible as take your teens on a vacation? What were you thinking?
All joking aside, for many teens, a week or two away means a lot of no’s … no friends, no sleeping in, no computers, no privacy … you get the drift. Their unhappiness can make the whole trip miserable. However, there are a few ways to make the trip (hopefully) enjoyable for everyone.
Have your tween-to-teen(s) help with the planning.
Among the top five complaints, I hear from kids is that they have no choice in what they get to do. Their lives feel scripted and directed, so give your kids some say. Ask them to help you choose the hotel or sights to see.
We lived in a very wired (wireless!) world. We are constantly plugged into our phones, our computers, TV and more. Taking a break from electronics can provide your family with a opportunities to reacquaint and make memories.
Help them stay connected.
Yes, this may seem like the opposite of the above point. However, the fear of missing out (FOMO) is very real. Allow your child some time to text or chat with their friends. On a recent road trip with my own teens, we set up designated times for unabashed tech use. The surprising result was that all of us realized we weren’t really missing out on much at all.
Give them space away from you.
Constant togetherness can fray nerves, including your own. When possible, provide opportunities for your tween-to-teens time to explore on their own. Give them a map and a time to meet up at the museum. Let them explore the hotel grounds. Offer an evening in the hotel room without you where they can order in and watch TV. If you aren’t certain they can head off solo, consider looking for a class or other teen activities they can do.
It can be difficult to travel when you feel like nothing is appreciated. A gentle reminder to your kids that travel is a luxury – not a punishment can be helpful. Encourage them to look at the trip through a different lens by pointing out the trip’s relevance to their own lives. For example, asking open-ended questions like “Have you ever thought about studying abroad in college?” and “What’s something you could do on this trip that you’d be excited to share with your friends/ teachers/coaches?” may give the trip more personal significance to your teens.
Now it’s your turn. What ideas have worked for you? Please share them in the comments section below.