Taking Your Teenager on a Vacation? Good Luck with That!
Do you have a moody, aloof, unmotivated or social media obsessed teenager? Oh, and you want to take them on a holiday? You must be nuts! Hah! As your little children become adolescents and are on a journey of self- discovering, it’s not always easy to get them to engage during your travels. The hardest part is when they’re fickle and we as parents have to learn to be a mind reader! There are no definitive answers but we can give the following tips a good go:
ENGAGEMENT TIP #1
Start Early. Make travel and family holidays something you do very early on in their lives. It should be consistently something the family looks forward to so as they get older, they understand that is part and parcel of family life. Even if they don’t want to go, they can at least prepare themselves for the inevitable!
If you do have the luxury of starting them young, make sure you involve them in the planning process. If they show no interest when you ask them where they would like to go or what they want to see, you have at least given them the courtesy of asking for their opinion. A shrug is better than no involvement I say. And you never know they might just surprise you!
ENGAGEMENT TIP #2
Know your Teenager. As your teenager flits from going grunge, to emo to becoming a staunch vegan, it’s important to take them seriously. As they continue to find themselves and their place in the world, we as parents can either choose to ignore their frivolity or participate in their journey. We can only hope they find their place quickly! Be sure to give them the opportunity to talk to you about their passions so you can tailor some of the itinerary to suit them.
To keep them involved, plan some of your travel to suit their current interests. Examples:
- If they decide that they are now on a Paleo diet, find the best Paleo restaurant in town and make sure to plan your meals to suit them. Better still get them to do the research to get some engagement.
- If you have a teenager that shows no interest until they get on a skateboard, you could give them some alone time to meet up with other boarders or find accommodation right next to a skate park. Try and learn some of the lingo and who their idols are. My partner’s brother became a professional skate boarder so you never know!
- If you have a teenager who is a highly strung, emotional musician, well the options are endless! Find some underground shows you could take them to (you may have to stand in the corner though) or some grungy vinyl shop or whatever that will blow their socks off.
Even if they don’t want to go or don’t show you any gratitude for going out of your way, keep persisting. They’ll remember one day. I remember my holidays with my parents despite being a moody teenager!
ENGAGEMENT TIP #3
For Teenagers Only. Try looking for teenage specific activities or groups. Surely if you put a bunch of teenagers who don’t care about anything together in one group, they’ll eventually bore the crap out of each other enough to start talking! Try anything from avant garde community groups and teenage tour groups to under age dance nights. I will never forget going to Orlando, Florida when I was 16 with 3 other families with teenage kids. We stayed next to Pleasure Island (Walt Disney World) where they used to have dry night clubs for under agers, one of which celebrated New Year’s Eve every night! Our parents allowed us to stay up a little later and we went partying almost every night! That was super cool.
ENGAGEMENT TIP #4
Understanding the Teenage Brain. According to Generation Next, there are seven strategies to properly engage the teenage brain. Perhaps if we understood its complicated inner workings, we may be able to have a good holiday!
How the teenage brain works:
- They can exercise poor judgment: finding it difficult to think through consequences
- They engage in increased risk-taking and inappropriate behaviour
- They act on impulse and emotions rather than logical and practicality
- They can misunderstand subtle social cues: this can lead to miscommunication
- They can misinterpret expectations and misread facial expressions
- They have a limited attention span and a different concept of time
- They lack the inhibitions of adulthood
Tips to help unlock the teenage brain:
- Young people still need close supervision, especially when in groups
- Be a parent/teacher, not a friend; a guide with a steady, loving hand
- Be on hand to provide protection if they need it but have the ability to stand back
- Make time to listen to what young people have to say; offer advice when asked
- Guide them and give them experience of communal responsibilities (chores around the house, involvement in an activity where they have to think of others)
- Encourage them to listen to their ‘inner selves’ rather than get carried away with the crowd and the moment
- Make sure they understand that every action has a consequence, big or small; the bigger the risk, the bigger the possible negative consequence.
ENGAGEMENT TIP #5
It’s Not All About Us. As much as we expect our kids to engage during a holiday, we also have to learn to get down to their level and do the things we may not enjoy. It’s a give and take situation where every member of the family should be able to do the things that interest them. The upside of that is that you may see a side of your teenager you might otherwise not be privy to and you could learn a thing or two. Be open. Be accepting.
ENGAGEMENT TIP #6
Electronics. It’s all good and well to limit screen time for toddlers but it’s a whole different ball game for teenagers. Teenagers use devices to communicate with their friends and whilst it may be prudent to remove all electronics from the kids, you might like to re-think how you will manage that for the older kids. For those who are allowed to have social media profiles, it’ll be pretty hard to stop them from using their smartphones. It may not be a bad thing if they are talking about their holiday. It may be their way of expressing themselves.
If you have access to their accounts, you could check in on their posts to gauge their moods. A small win for the parents if they show some excitement on Instagram or Snapchat, even if they told you it was the worse day of their life!
ENGAGEMENT TIP #7
Create Adventure. Do something out of your comfort zone and rely on your teenager. Reverse the responsibilities and show them your vulnerabilities. I have a fear of heights but my daughter loves them. I explain my fear to her and when we have to do an activity which involves heights of any kind, I ask her for help. Now, she is used to it and she prepares me for it! She reassures me and holds my hands at all times. And when we make it she says “good job Mum!”
ENGAGEMENT TIP #8
Space. On particularly moody days, leave them alone. If they want to stay in and not head out, let them and in fact, take advantage of that time to do something they are not interested in. If you’re game you can let them explore on their own so they can take in the destination on their own terms. A little self-discovery never hurt anyone.
ENGAGEMENT TIP #9
Bend the Rules. If your teenager already struggles to follow your rules, what are the chances they’ll comply when they’re in a foreign country? Pretty much zero I would think! To avoid conflict on a holiday you have been saving up for the last 12 months, may I suggest you let down some of those boundaries? It’s ok if they stay up later than usual or consume food they know they shouldn’t be eating. It’s a holiday!
ENGAGEMENT TIP #10
Set a Budget. To help avoid arguments when it comes to money matters, set a strict budget. Get them to decide on some of the pre-determined activities and its associated costs so you know exactly how much you’re spending. For everyday spending or some small luxuries, give them some money to purchase items of their choosing without having to ask you permission. If you have a teenager who has no self-control, perhaps give them cold hard cash each day so they don’t blow the their entire budget.
We understand every teenager is unique and we certainly don’t have all the answers but we can try! Desperate times call for desperate measures!
Do you have any other tips on how to engage teenagers on holidays to add to the list? Tell us in the comments below!
We hope you found this family travel tip useful. Please share!