BY MARY JO RAPINI, M.ED., L.P.C. APRIL 2015
Spring break is coming up! 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 teen 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 more freedom than when they were younger. Create a space for them to be alone at times, make sure they can be involved in age-appropriate fun activities, and don’t 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 mostly by watching you, especially how you treat their other parent, strangers, and waiters. If you are short with and belittle others you are teaching your teen that it’s okay to mistreat others.
Before the trip, draw up a list of expectations. Go over the list, and make sure any questions are answered. Things will go more smoothly and eliminate nagging if teens fully comprehend boundaries and familial obligations.
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, get to know who they are, and reconnect with them without the pressures of school activities.
Mary Jo Rapini, M.Ed., L.P.C. (maryjorapini.com), 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. (StartTalkingBook.com).