When parenting teens, the key to survival is to allow your child an appropriate amount of independence and draw the battle lines appropriately. Many parents struggle with their relationships with their adolescents and either go to the extreme of a laissez-faire style of "anything goes" or a totalitarian parenting style. Neither of these is productive, nor will they lessen the challenges that come in dealing with your teen. Teens want to have some say in their activities and family decisions affecting them. In the area of family activities and vacations, this becomes evident and your teen may begin to refuse to go along. Here are some steps that can be taken and others that should be avoided when your teen refuses to go on family vacations.
1. Don't ignore your teen's preferences
Having a family meeting allows each member of your family to weigh in on their preferences and feel as though their voice is heard (even if the decision is not going along with their preferences). Teenagers are more likely to participate in family activities if they feel their voice is heard and that the process is a democratic one, rather than the choices solely of the parents.
2. Don't ignore your teen's need for some elbow room
Teens are in a difficult place; they want independence from their parents, yet want to be involved with them at the same time. Part of navigating adolescence is that these needs must be met and a teen needs to have a balance. Planning for the entire family to have some space at the end of a long car ride and upon checking into a hotel makes good sense, for everyone, especially your teen.
3. Don't take the guilt trip on vacation with you
Leave the guilt trip at home. No one wants to be manipulated into doing something. You know the one, "Gran is getting up there, and this is her wish to see her grandchildren while she still has the use of her eyes." Guilt is an emotion that is poisonous to family relationships, and should always be avoided.
4. Keep the issues in the present
If you want your teen to believe that you do forgive them for their past choices/mistakes, don't keep bringing them up. Even if the attempt to do so is to illustrate a point the message your teen will receive is that you hold grudges. If your teen is not participating in numerous family activities, don't keep bringing those up. Instead, sit down with your teen and discuss their feelings and motivations on why they do not want to participate.
5. Don't give a negative consequence as a final answer
Remember that you need to stay in the present. If you give your teen the option of staying home and they take that option, don't use that as future leverage, not allowing them to go on another trip or outing.
A. Lynn Scoresby, founder and president of My Family Track , First Answers , and Achievement Synchrony , and has been a marriage and family psychologist for more than 35 years. He has published more than 20 books and training programs.