Let's Talk Tween

Information and insight about kids ages 8-12 (the "in between" years)

Traveling With Your Tweens Can Be Tricky Business

Tips to ensure travelling with your tween is fun for all

Because your tween is caught between childhood and the teen years, his likes and dislikes, frustrations and fancies can at times be difficult to gauge. As a parent you may find yourself exasperated and confused.  For years he has counted down the days to family vacation at the beach this year however, he seems less than pleased by the proposition. He tells you he wants to go to camp with all his other friends. “Camp,” you wonder, “since when does he like camp?” The last time you tried to send him he cried so much the first week you had to dis-enroll him. Okay, that was three years ago, but still.

Vacationing with a tween can be challenging, that is why a little bit of preparation can go a long way. One of the most confusing issues with which you have to contend is that your tween is developing in many area including: cognitively, emotionally, socially and of course physically. The rate at which your tween develops from realm to realm varies from tween to tween. This is why your tween may insist that you keep a safe distance away when chaperoning her and her friends at the mall but still insists on having a night light in her room because she is scared of the dark.

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Family vacations are a great way to bond with your kids. What follows are a few quick tips to ensure that traveling with your tween is all about fun, not about frustration.

1.) Encourage her participation in planning. Your tween is at that age when she wants to have more influence is the decisions being made on her behalf. You offer yours an empowering experience when you engage her in the process of planning a vacation. Even if your destination is pre-determined, such as your annual trip to Grandma’s house, offering her a say in what you will do while there can contribute to a smoother trip. Put simply, your tween is less likely to argue or complain if she has a hand in determining the destination or at least what you will do while there.

2.) Compromise when possible. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. This is especially true when the person is your tween. In order to cut down on the complaining and conflict, consider meeting your tween at least part way when/if he doesn’t agree with the activities you have scheduled. Sometimes giving in just a little will go a long way.

3. )Know your tween’s limits. Translation, know when to call it quits. Although you may have had the best intentions when you laid out the daily plan, sometimes too much activity can push her to the limit. The result is a cranky and frustrated child who is frankly no fun to be around. No one knows your tween like you do. When you notice that she is sending signals that she has had enough, it is time to take a break.

4.) Know your limits. There is much truth in the saying “To thine own self be true.” It is important to be in tune with yourself. Your vacation should be just that. If you find yourself feeling tired, overwhelmed, or even frustrated, it is time to take a break. You have worked hard for your vacation; make sure you enjoy it.

5.) Flexibility is the key to calm. Although you may have put a lot of time, energy, and thought into planning your vacation, when you are travelling with a tween, flexibility rules. Your tween is at that age when her reactions to things can be quite variable. Although the water park may have sounded like a great idea at the time, you may have to switch set if your daughter refuses to put on a bathing suit. While you may perceive her as being stubborn or insolent, she may actually feel shy or embarrassed about her developing body. Sure your son loved surfing last year but his lack of confidence in his ability to stay up on the board may overcome his willingness to try. Instead of getting annoyed or upset, encourage your tween to help you develop an alternative plan.

6.) Avoid over scheduling. Vacations are short and the time seems to go by so quickly. Toward this end, your natural inclination may be to pack as much fun into one day as possible. Pace yourself. Your family is better served when they have time to actually enjoy what they are doing. Vacation should not feel like work. You want your tween to feel tired at the end of the day, not irritable or cranky because he feels like you pushed him too hard.

7.) Forget about frustration, have fun! Vacation is all about enjoyment. Traveling with a tween can be challenging at times. Her wants and desires can be both unpredictable and variable. Try not to get upset or overwhelmed. Take a deep breath and take a step back when needed. A positive attitude is indeed catchy. Let go the letdowns. You may just have to accept that you might not get a chance to see those ruins or take in that show. We all know that when a tween is in a negative mood, the whole family can suffer. Try not to your tween’s attitude ruin your vacation.

Laughter is a good anecdote for opposition. Commit yourself to rest, and relaxation. A good mood is catchy.

Traveling with your tween can be trying at times. With a little ingenuity and a lot of patience however, you can ensure that your family vacation is a good time for all. 

Jennifer Powell-Lunder, Psy.D., is a clinical psychologist and parenting expert specializing in work with tweens, teens, young adults, and their families.

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