It may come as a surprise to some, but teenagers are not always enthusiastic about family vacations. It's not that teens don't love their family (even if they state otherwise in a loud voice.)
Teenagers are working to define themselves as individuals, separate from their family members. Part of this process is that they put their social circles before their family. For a parent who is not prepared for this shift, it is very difficult to see their child engaging in behavior that feels like open rejection.
When your child was a toddler, they needed to establish themselves as a being separate from you. This is similar to what your teen is doing now. Rather than feeling rejected by your child's resistance to go on family vacations, you can see this as a natural part of development. Your teen is striving towards their independence.
The value of family activities and outings, especially during the teen years, is vast. Family involvement is a key factor in the happiness and self-image of a teen.
How does a parent navigate this tricky issue with balance? You need to give your teen some independence, while at the same time building the family relationship.
1. Have planning meetings and give assignments
Family input will help family unity and harmony. The process of participating in planning gives your child the skills to plan on their own when the time comes. Allow for input from every member of the family, take a vote, and delegate certain responsibilities to your children.
For a family vacation, you might task them to:
make packing lists
research famous sites
research places to eat
Follow through on your expectations and praise your child for their efforts.
2. Be flexible.
You can allow your teenager some options, like bringing a friend. This will help them know that their feelings are valued. Including your teen's friend in some family activities will help you get to know their friends better. This allows them to have a balance of time with their peers while placing importance on family.
Set expectations for your child so that they know that this is a family outing and that there will be some time with the friend alone, and some time with the pair joining the family. If you have more than one child, rotate the friend privilege.
3. Sometimes allow your teen to skip a vacation
When the vacation is not up your teen's alley or they have other plans, allow them a rain check. Use this option judiciously so it won't become a habit.
Family vacations are important. If you want to include the entire family, you need to be sensitive to the needs of your teen. Include the whole family in planning the activity and be flexible when it comes to inviting friends or allowing your teen to opt out every once in a while.
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.