A mom complained, “It used to be fun taking my kids on road trips, but now my 13-year-old daughter ruins everything. She is on her phone the whole time! When we ask where she wants to eat, she says, ‘I don’t care,’ then complains about wherever we go. I get so tired of her sulking and making everyone miserable!”
Adolescence can be like an unwelcome passenger on a family vacation. Though the benefits of traveling with teens are many – they can find the nearest Starbucks on their phone and heave suitcases out of the car – they may not help willingly, preferring instead to whine or grumble (“Why do I have to do everything?”). Their bad moods can bring everybody down as they pick on siblings and act like nothing will make them happy.
Here are some helpful tips for frazzled parents:
1. Declare “No-Phone Zones.” This can be 30 miles or 30 minutes, but do negotiate rather than dictating. And be sure you participate, too!
2. Ignore bad moods. I saw parents do this recently at a motel breakfast. Their daughter, who was around 13, sulkily slouched against the wall, not participating in the family chatter. When she finally slid over and joined the conversation, she was welcomed and immediately included. Which brings us to the next point:
3. Ignore good moods. Don’t say, “Now isn’t this nice, when you’re actually being happy?” It will then become a matter of pride for him to prove that he is not happy; in fact, now he’s twice as grumpy because he’ll say you are picking on him!
4. Take the back seat. Siblings get tired of sitting near each other, and the view from the back is boring. Switch with your teen if s/he is old enough to be in the front seat; this will also give the back seat crew some of your attention. If you’re flying, consider one parent sitting with each child instead of parents in one row and kids in another.
Take the middle road with moods and the back seat on the road (or in the air), and you may find that Adolescence isn’t so hard to travel with after all.