Members of women’s online travel community Thelma & Louise aren’t keeping to the “Mum’s the Word” mantra of old when it comes to dealing with wayward teens on their travels. Travelling with a teenager can bring a host of challenges, but the Thelma & Louise ladies have been sharing their top tips on the best ways to travel without a teenage tantrum in sight.
The women-only website (www.thelmaandlouise.com) has members of all ages, and although the site is a tool to meet like-minded travel companions, many members have husbands and families at home. When a member asked a question about the best ways to family fun, not holiday hell, other mums were quick to share their tips.
Thelma & Louise member Deborah Klaassen, who has also written on this topic for the Airtours blog, said, “Relaxing holidays might seem beyond reach when teenagers are involved, but there is a way to get through travelling with teens. I suggest starting the holiday off on the right foot with generosity and kindness, and make sure teens don’t get bored by bringing games, magazines and other things that they might find interesting.”
“If teens start to act up, try to understand what they’re going through. Don’t be too harsh if you feel that they’re spoiling the holiday by being moody, lazy or difficult. Have some empathy. Don’t make fun of them, embarrass them or tell their secrets. All you can do is address these subjects in private.”
Seeming to join the discussion, Psychotherapist Kitty Hagenbach wrote in The Times Weekend in early November 2011, “Before puberty there’s a huge increase in the number of neurones in the brain. At puberty these are pruned back so we can become ready for the complexities for adult life… The brain is effectively being completely rewired, so parents need to moderate their expectations. You can’t expect someone to behave in an adult way when he or she is in a half-baked place”
Christine Davies, one of the founders of Thelma & Louise knows all too well the trials and tribulations of teen travel. “I was blessed with twins, so had double the trouble when we travelled as a family. Although we had our moments, now my family is fully grown we cherish the times we spent on adventures together. To see Thelma & Louise members inspiring and guiding each other on matters like this brings another great resource to the website – real advice for real women. Long may it continue.”
Inspired by the great advice coming from the members, Thelma & Louise have drawn up a survival guide for travel with teenagers:
1. STAY CONNECTED: For the Facebook generation nothing is more important that staying in touch with their friends. Allow teens an allotted amount of time each day to read their mail and chat online with their friends. If they have this time to connect and chat, they will be more willing to do family activities as well.
2. PRIVACY & SPACE: Give teens some space to be themselves. Consider booking them their own room, or interconnecting rooms so supervision is close but not too close. Give them the opportunity to learn to do things on their own, obviously making sure that they are safe. They should learn that responsibility will bring trust and freedom.
3. CHOICE: Ask teens in advance to make a contribution to the holiday in the form of ideas and suggestions. Ask them to draw up a list of things that they would like to do, and try to dedicate time to activities they’ve chosen. A fresh approach to travel or a new activity might bring joy to all the family.
4. FREEDOM: Discuss your rules with teens, and listen to their objections. Denying them the right to freedom altogether is setting up for a failure. Tell teens where they are and where they aren’t allowed to go, what behaviour is acceptable, and what time they have to be back. Be strict about these rules, but be reasonable too.
5. TECHNOLOGY: Take at least two mobile phones on holiday, ensuring they function abroad, so a teen can carry one if they spend time away from the family. Explain that they’ll have to pay the bill themselves if they use the phone to call their friends back home.
6. WOW FACTOR: Think of a way to give teens a special experience during the holiday, something that they will never forget. If they are looking forward to something that will make their friends say, “Wow, I wish my parent would do that”, their interest will be peaked. Look out for a local concert, a theme park, an adrenalin sport or an activity popular with their idols.
7. CRUISE: On a family-friendly cruise line, life on the ocean waves is a fantastic holiday for teens. Many modern ships are filled with activities, special attractions and experiences that appeal to a young crowd. Encourage teens to make friends as they will be in a fairly safe environment and can be independent for most of the time.
8. PATIENCE: Avoid escalating fraught situations by learning what is really important and what doesn’t matter in the bigger picture. Conflict isn’t always avoidable, but be reasonable and don’t lose your temper. And keep in mind that teens will eventually grow out of it.
As one member said, “I’m sure I was a horrible teenager to travel with, but now I’m really grateful my parents dragged me around lots of incredible places and gave me many amazing memories.”