teen divingVacations are chances to separate from everyday cares, explore new places, and reconnect with loved ones. Whether you’re traveling globally or having a “staycation” and enjoying your home town, I believe vacations are vital for coping with stress and gaining perspective on life. For families, vacations can be a way to enjoy each other’s company without the distractions or hassles of day-to-day life.

Family vacations change as people change, and taking a teenager on vacation is often quite different from taking a child. Here are some ideas on making family vacations with teens enjoyable and low-stress for everyone.

Let your teen be involved in planning. The location of your vacation may not be up for discussion (if it is, bring your teen in on it.) However, let your teen weigh in on planned activities, timing, and the balance between family togetherness and alone time. Try to let them make some vacation decisions, while keeping it one that’s attractive to all family members.

Let your teen sleep in. If you’re on vacation and your teen wants to sleep until noon, I’d suggest- unless there are important plans to get up for- that you let them rest. Teens in general don’t sleep as much as they should, and sometimes playing catch-up is the best option they’ve got.

Let your teen “plug in”. Obviously, on a camping or other remote trip, your teen won’t be able to use their cell phone or laptop to connect with peers. But if there is service available, they’ll likely want to text and participate in social media. For us, sometimes turning off the cell phone is freedom; for teens, it can be a worrying separation from their peer group or a romantic partner. Set limits around vacation “electronics time”, but give your teen at least a little time to check in with friends.

Let your teen have their own space. Not all vacation accommodations involve a teen having their own room. If your teen won’t have their own physical space, discuss with them ahead of time how they can have some personal space if they need it. A walk in the woods, trip to a local mall, or just putting in earphones and listening to music apart from everyone else can help a teen who feels crowded get away for a little bit.

Let your teen leave all cares behind- or bring some along. Teens are very different in how willing they are to leave behind stressors. Some teens will happily escape from academic, work, or other responsibilities, while some feel uncomfortable if they’re not keeping up. If your teen is the type who can spend a vacation studying, make a plan so they can have designated study time and designated play time. Similarly, if they really need to be working on something, try to implement the same deal.

Let your teen regress a little. It’s comforting for some teens to get a little childish during vacation- and I don’t mean that in a negative sense. Playing old games, lingering over favorite pancakes, or running around with same-age family can be wonderful parts of a vacation for a teen. Encourage your teen to relax, be silly, enjoy old family traditions, and let go a little. They, and you, can worry about their maturity back in the real world.

Vacations with a teen are not always completely enjoyable family experiences, but hopefully they can be time for your family to bond, your teen to enjoy themselves, and everyone to form some cherished memories of time spent together.

Does anyone have a story of a favorite vacation as a teen- or one that didn’t work at all?