By Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC
Spring break is here and that means family trips. If you’re like many parents, you’ve been busy with your job, your kids’ activities, your partner and your aging parents. It’s easy to forget that you are raising teens, and taking everyone on a family vacation may be more challenging than you expected. Teens aren’t the easiest to travel with. They have an attitude over things that may not have concerned them before; they insult under their breath; and often they melt into screaming, slamming doors and tears. It can make living with them trying, but traveling with them can push you over the edge.
Rather than give in to your own stress and anger, it’s better to embrace an attitude of reconnecting with your teen(s). This requires you to be an adult, and not take what they say personally, but rather see the vulnerability inside. You want them to be grateful for all the sacrifices you’ve made, and you have a better chance of seeing their gratitude if you make an adjustment within yourself.
Here are suggestions to help you get closer to your teen on spring break, or any time.
* Calm yourself down first. Vacations can be stressful and when you take your stress out on your teen, you will get it back double fold.
* Remember you’re the parent. Your child is not your friend. Don’t get drawn into petty arguments with them. There is no worse car trip than being locked inside fighting with your teen.
* Respect boundaries. Your teen needs privacy and that need is present on vacations, too. Create a space for them to be alone at times, and don’t guilt them or shame them for needing that.
* Talk less, lecture never, and listen always. Kids will tell you so much if you don’t make them feel interrogated.
* Kids learn most by watching you, especially how you treat their other parent, strangers and waiters. If you are rude, talk down or are mean, they learn that it’s okay to treat others that way.
* Before the trip have expectations listed and make sure each child understands exactly what is expected on the trip. Teens are less anxious when they know what to expect.
* Always look for behaviors your kids do right, and tell them how impressed you were. Teens need to know they please you.
* The whole family needs to have a set time to unplug on vacation. Decide that prior to the spring break and enforce it with your kids and yourself.
* The family that plays together stays together. Lighten up, join your kids in ridiculous laughter and fun. Life without humor would be unbearable.
If spring break is going to be spent at home instead of away, these same suggestions apply. Use the time to reconnect with your teen.
Spring break is an opportunity to take a break with your child, getting to know who they are, and reconnecting with them without the pressures of school activities.
– Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl’s Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at StartTalkingBook.com and more about Rapini at maryjorapini.com.