Dear Mr. Dad: Every summer our family takes a two-week trip to a national park in the Rockies. We camp, we hike, we fish, we explore. Until recently, it’s been the high point of the year for everyone.
Now my oldest is 15, and at the mere suggestion of this year’s trip, she yelled, “No way am I going on that lame trip again!” Lame? She used to love these vacations! What are we supposed to do?
A: Ouch! Hurts, doesn’t it? Just like the whole package of teen rebellion, it’s hard to take these angry rejections well. But it’s important to put them into the context of a larger change in your relationship.
During adolescence, teens naturally begin to pull away from their parents, to define themselves as their own people, to stop being so embarrassingly dependent on you. So the good news is that your daughter is developmentally right on target, doing exactly what she’s supposed to be doing at her age.
If you’ve done the same trip every year, your daughter will associate it with her childhood – the very thing she’s trying so hard to leave behind.
Start by finding ways to make the upcoming trip more appealing for a teenager. There may be activities or attractions in the area that were of no interest when you had little ones but now may be just the thing to pique your daughter’s interest.
Another alternative is to consider taking an entirely different trip, one she won’t associate with her childhood. Here, it’s critical to involve your teen in selecting the destination. You might also think about asking her to bring a friend along (what fun – two teenagers). Once you get there, give them as much freedom as they can reasonably handle. And yes, that may mean that they’ll spend a lot of time texting their friends while everyone else enjoys the great outdoors.
Finally, you can always leave her at home. The family vacation is a treasured tradition – so why not keep it that way for everyone? Arrange safe supervision with the family of a friend or neighbor and enjoy your vacation without having to deal with the surly attitude of someone who’d rather be anywhere else.
Done right, this option can show a level of trust and respect that your teen will appreciate.
We often want to keep things the way “they’ve always been.” But allowing yourself as a parent to adapt to the natural changes that adolescence brings can make a huge difference in preserving good family dynamics.