By Luisa Frey
Creator/editor of www.teentraveltalk.com
What’s one of the biggest issues facing parents of teenagers?
Disconnect between parent and child.
We all know the feeling of wanting to be closer to our young adult yet mostly we end up butting heads because of their desire to be treated like an adult but not really acting like one. Inevitably, we often feel the void that this disconnect causes.
However, I’ve discovered one sure-fire way to connect with my teen – through travel. While we can’t be on the road 24/7, I’ve found over and over again that when my teen daughter and I are away from our daily routine, we turn into different people – ones who don’t see each other as a “parent” or as a “teen” but instead as a complementary duo. And we actually have real conversations instead of those which escalate into shouting!
So what are my secrets to selecting a trip that facilitates connecting with my teen?
LET THEM OWN PART OF THE PLANNING PROCESS
Last winter my daughter and I were going through a very difficult time. However, one day she walked into my office and said, “I want to go to Salem, MA with you next month since I’m doing a history paper on the Salem Witch Trials.” My first reaction was, “No way, we can’t afford that.” But then I realized that she actually wanted to spend time with me and that I was going to move heaven and earth to make this trip happen!
So I gave her ownership of the planning process and told her to choose a website to help her plan it; find out which attractions were open in the winter; price an affordable hotel; and decide how many days we needed to stay there. The next day she marched in with an itinerary she had created and an affordable hotel suggestion.
Needless to say, I booked the trip and it proved critical in getting our relationship back on track.
TURN “CAR RIDES” INTO “CONFIDES”
Our road trip from New Jersey to Massachusetts gave us plenty of time to talk, listen to music, or just be in the same space for a period time without one of us having to run out the door like at home.
Since then, I have discovered that my daughter opens up most when we are in the car and I am driving. Perhaps it’s because teens do not always feeling comfortable looking an adult in the eye when they talk about deep matters. With me behind the wheel, that scenario is facilitated.
USE THE POWER OF THEIR PEERS
Let’s face it – teens are most influenced by their peers and not as much by mom and dad. Why not use teen influence to help you plan a trip that your teens will enjoy? What parent wants to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a family trip that their teen labels “lame” ahead of time? Instead, you can nip “baditude” in the bud by getting your teen enthused before you even leave the house.
One way to do this is for you and your teen to check out www.teentraveltalk.com. This blog is written by teens for their peers and parents and details trips that get the teen stamp of approval. It also features articles that are written by teens and their parents regarding trips that had some tension around them. These articles give advice from the teens as to what they would have liked to have done differently on those specific trips. Lastly, it includes teen and parent forums for asking family travel questions which are answered by teentraveltalk.com’s teen bloggers.
ACTION IS A MUST
When you check out teentraveltalk.com, you’ll see a recurring theme: teens love trips that feature ACTION! They do NOT want long car rides, sitting in a cathedral in Europe, nor too many museum visits. They want to be out there doing cool, active things. This can range from horseback riding in Costa Rica to walking over the Brooklyn Bridge.
However, action needs to be tempered with time to “hang out.” This is not the same as down time on a plane or in a car. Instead it means unstructured time to listen to their iPod, watch a movie, munch on some snacks, or hang out at the beach.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO KEEP THE MEMORIES ALIVE
During and after your trip, use the alluring power of social media to keep the trip memories alive. My daughter LOVES taking photos – thousands of them. The photos are great documentaries of what we did and what we saw. They also are the impetus for us to stand around her computer after a trip – her little brother included – and laugh at some of the fun moments of our trip.
Of course these photos then turn up on my teenager’s Facebook page. While some of us parents are not privy to our kids’ Facebook pages, you should feel honored that the trip you went on with your child actually landed up on her/his wall. Sounds like your teen might actually want to take another…and another trip with you after all!