Ah, the joys of a family vacation! You plan for it, take time off of work, save up your money, and eagerly anticipate the time and experiences you will share. At some point, a disturbing thought enters your mind and lingers. In fact, it will not leave you alone, stabbing into your conscious thoughts and producing tendrils of terror. What is this thought? It is this…you will be traveling with a teenager.
Of course, you know your child’s age. It was not a huge surprise. Unfortunately, it is easy to forget that your darling offspring has also entered into a realm of moody, hormonal darkness from which there is no escape…at least, for a few years. It is rather like taking a journey with a large toddler, replete with tantrums and grumpiness. However, while a toddler has a short attention span, a teenager has an amazing memory and the ability to hold grudges.
Am I exaggerating? Perhaps. Still, it is important to keep in mind that a teenager, while still your loving, sweet child, is a different form of creature. You are not the same, as much as you may wish it. Can your vacation still be an enjoyable experience for everyone? Of course, it can! You need only to bear in mind that you are facing a different set of challenges than you are used to and must make allowances accordingly.
For example, do not plan on an early departure or early activity of any sort. Sleeping in seems to be, to a teenager, a required rite of passage. If you have a teen of the female variety, the process of “getting ready” can be a lingering, excruciating nightmare. If your trip involves donning a swimsuit, plan for the meltdown time that may occur if she feels a bit body conscious…as we all do at times.
If you are driving, prepare yourself to battle to first blood for the right to the radio. It may be best to set up timetables of who can choose music when and for how long. You may want to include a volume limit if you are not prepared to be thundered right out of the vehicle. If all else fails, break out the headphones. Since the point of a family trip is to actually spend time together, only use these for short breaks when necessary. When you are in charge of the music, prepare yourself for eye-rolling and enough huffing and puffing to blow down that little pig’s brick house.
My parents chose to allow a friend of mine to come along with us. As an only child, it was a fantastic experience! I still enjoyed my time with my parents, yet also had another person of my own age with whom to giggle and cavort. Friends are incredibly important to teens, and they will thank you for such a gesture.
It is also imperative to involve your teen in the planning. They will definitely want to try something new and will be grateful that you allowed them to assist in choosing which activities to try together. Teenagers are full of death-defying adrenaline and will need something to fuel that and satisfy it fully. Opt for a range of activities, so that everyone gets a bit of what they want. Trying something new as a family builds strong bonds and leaves you with great stories!
Another thing you will want to plan is down time! Your teen will want time to relax just as much as you will. Well, perhaps not quite as much, but they will still want it! If you are staying at a place with free wifi, you may want to set parameters for the time spent on phones, tablets, laptops, and game consoles. We all may want to upload a vacation picture to Facebook or check our messages, but it need not take away from the overall experience and time together.
Bear in mind, your teenager actually does want to spend time with you. Yes, that is absolutely true. Never think that they don’t want to be with you. You are still their parent and their first playmate. However, you are also the person who they know loves them unconditionally and, as such, you get the brunt of their hormonal grumps. Ride it out in the best way you can. The day will come when they have left the nest, and you will yearn for an eye- roll or two!