There comes a stage when some young people just don’t want to be part of the family holiday any more. Whether it’s just adolescent angst, a desire for independence, or the limited ‘cool’ factor, nothing is going to take the shine off a vacation faster than a pouty teenager. However, if you can get them invested in what you have planned, it can turn a potential trial into a great trip.
Probably the first thing to consider is why your teen doesn’t want to come along. While teenage motivations can be a complete mystery at the best of times, it doesn’t take too much conversation to get an idea of why they are dragging their feet. You know your kids pretty well, so ask a few questions along the lines of your suspicions. If they are particularly social, could they be upset about the forced separation from friends? Is there some social event they are missing out on, or were planning for? Consider their personality and how they might feel about the proposed trip. We love being outdoors and seeing new places, but our eldest son is a bookworm of the first order. It’s not unusual for him to complain that we went for a hike last week and he doesn’t see the point of going for another one today! When we plan a vacation, we try to be sensitive to what is going to enjoy it – or not enjoy. Likewise, it may be as simple as finding a compromise that respects their wishes while enabling the trip to go ahead. With modern technology and social media there’s no reason why your teen has to feel cut off or out of touch, and they may find they like the opportunities the trip gives them to show their friends what they are missing out on!
Another key aspect of adolescence is the desire for autonomy. Being ‘dragged along’ on a family holiday flies in the face of the independence young people so fiercely try to develop. A simple solution is to make them part of the planning process.
There are aspects of the trip that you, of course, have to take care of, but including your teenager in discussions about where to go and where to stay can give them a sense of ownership of the trip. Once the destination and accommodation are sorted out, there are minor details that are perfectly suited to the keen internet searching skills of an adolescent. Get them to research the area and fill the rest of the family in on the most important things to know. If you are visiting a new culture, put them in charge of teaching everyone the basic local greetings or key phrases you might need. If they are up to the challenge, set them a budget and give them the opportunity to plan one day’s activity, bearing in mind the needs of the whole family. At the very least it will give them a sense of how hard it is to keep everyone happy on a vacation, but it could also help them to engage with the trip. They might be very proud of the day they plan, so make sure everyone lets them know how enjoyable it was – it will only increase their willingness to come along next time!
Taking a teen on a family vacation doesn’t have to be difficult. If you invest in communication and consider where they are coming from, it could become a great opportunity to grow closer as a family. And who knows? Getting their input could make it the best vacation ever!