You’ve worked hard for this vacation and are so looking forward to some time away from the stress and monotony of your regular routine. Especially after more than a year of many and ever-changing pandemic restrictions.

Unfortunately, not everyone feels the same enthusiasm as you do.

Your teen is grumpy because they’d rather do nothing, hang out with friends and be on their phones/gaming all night and this family vacation is cramping their summer style.

You literally just want to smack them upside the head because of their selfish, negative attitude and refusal to be a decent travel companion. If they were older, you’d consider leaving them at home (with their attitude) but at this stage, you only have a few summers left to create family memories before they leave the house.

At this point, you’re wondering how you’ll relax when you’re already at odds with your teen and haven’t left yet. Deep breaths, you’re not alone in this!

Here’s 6 tips to help you make the most of your summer vacation with your teen:

  1. The $%^&* Cell Phone! – You didn’t grow up with a cell phones so you want to throw them under the next bus that goes by, not to mention think your teen’s addicted and doomed. Is it too much to ask your teen to put their device down during vacation? Teenagers are growing up in the digital era so being on their phones is normal for them. That’s not their fault, as much as it is their problem, so be patient if they’d rather look at a screen.
  2. Connection time – You’re hoping your teen wants to connect with you while on vacation and talk like they used to when they were little. That expectation will only end in disappointment for both of you. Teenagers often feel like they’re being talked at or spoken to when all they desperately want is to feel heard. That’s what they get when they talk to their friends, along with a common understanding of teel life. The days of turning to you to talk, listen and hang out are decreasing and it’s not personal.
  3. Finding balance – Before you leave on vacation, negotiate some non-technology times that are reasonable i.e., mealtimes, during some family activities, other family times. Negotiate by letting them know what’s important to you (time together, your relationship with them) and hearing what’s important to them (listening is key!). Find as much common ground as possible (even though they’re probably going to hate it anyway) instead of making a unilateral decision because that’ll tank your efforts fast. DO NOT use guilt as a leverage tool i.e., how much money the vacation or activities cost, how long it took to save for, or your teen being responsible for your feelings (see #5).
  4. Being right – When your teen is participating in family activities and you’re getting mad because they’re not appreciating what you paid for, where they are, being ungrateful, etc., remember this may not be their top choice of how to spend their summer. If they said they were going to hate it, they’re going to make sure they’re right! How foolish would it look for them when they say that they were going to hate it and then they end up having an amazing time?! If your teen does enjoy themselves don’t throw that back in their face by pointing out the nano seconds you saw them smile or heard a faint laugh.
  5. You have permission – You have permission to have a joyful, grateful, exciting, and fulfilling life experience even if your teenager looks like their best friend just died! This is YOUR vacation too. If you’re so upset that it’s ruining your day, cut the emotional bungee cord by being honest where you’re spending your emotional energy. Even if your teen is grumpy with their head up their butt, being mad at them for not enjoying their time or trying to change them will suck you dry. Let it go, move on.
  6. Look for small wins – When your teen works within your negotiated tech time and participates in family activities, even though they’re not doing it how you’d hoped, say, “Thank you”. Those two words go a long way in creating more positivity, rather than focusing on they aren’t doing.

Family vacations with teens are easier than toddlers and teens because there’s less apparatus, toys, and small bodies to manage. Now, you have able bodies but there’s relational and emotional management that feels more difficult and frustrating.

Letting go of how your teen participates and taking ownership of your experience is critical to make the most of your family time while reducing stress and fallout.

If you’re looking for more tips and support like this, join my free parenting community! You’ll find a tribe of caring, courageous parents dealing with similar challenges, so you don’t have to feel alone.

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Aly Pain

Growing up, I was the smart, fun girl on the outside and a frantic, anxious mess on the inside. I spent years healing the pain of dysfunctional family relationships, including eating disorders and a suicide attempt, to break the cycle raising my own teen boys.

Today, I’ve been happily married to my husband for over 23 years, and we have 2 incredible teen boys. My passion is empowering parents to build healthy, respectful relationships with their teens without giving up or giving up, even if they've tried everything and are at their wits end.

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