July 15, 2024

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Carolyn Hax: Teen daughter is ‘grumpy’ about all family travel plans

3 min read

Oh, Carolyn: My teen does not want to go anywhere. At least not with her parents and family; she was excited for a school trip to Europe and had a great time.

I suggest road trips, visits with family out of state, amusement parks, beaches, mountains — and all are met with a response that ranges from “meh” to “ugh.” We finally have the resources to enjoy some vacation travel time, and I’m also hoping to give her some cool experiences before she flies off to college in a few years. But paying a bunch of money to travel only to have her grumpy and rolling her eyes the whole time does not seem fun for anyone.

She is now starting to say she doesn’t really want to make the trips to visit with family in other states, including on holidays.

I want to take a family trip to the beach this summer and visit my aunt along the way, and she is already grumbling that my aunt’s house is boring and doesn’t have good WiFi (okay, that last part is true and annoying). I want to respect her wishes but also don’t think that at 15 she should be in the driver’s seat on family travel decisions. What to do?

Anonymous: Recognize that you’ve entered your awkward phase. It’s when everything you do, say, think, wear, breathe or chew is awkward for your adolescent child.

Most parents of teens get there, if not all, so I have to think you and anyone who has ever seen a movie knew this was coming? So maybe my role is to point out that even cool travel cannot buy you an exemption.

The next thing you do is embrace it. Your kid is trying to understand who she is apart from you. Your choosing not to take the emotional separation personally is a great way to let her do that.

Next, decide how that will look in your family. A parent wants to be “in the driver’s seat” of the family, of course. But that doesn’t mean you have to declare that you set the travel agenda and she will go with you and like it. That is one way to seize the wheel, sure, but there are others.

You can also pick your battles: Maybe the window has closed on the bougie holiday card photo at whatever resort (sorry), but maintaining ties with extended family isn’t optional, no matter how many holes she burns in the photos with her suffering. Due fairness, let her weigh in on some plans.

Another is to encourage her student travel as you put Family Travel on hiatus, until all parties’ participation is willing again. It’s a risk; you’re staking everything on the hope those togetherness days will come again, which they may not. The passage of time won’t be denied.

However, forcing the issue isn’t just a matter of wasted cash and toxic exposure to eye-rolling. It’s also a form of silencing under the guise of leisure. She is changing and growing, so why can’t your approach to travel (among other things) change and grow with her? That sets a tone of respect, not capitulation — and respect is the kind of family value that can inspire grown kids to travel with their parents throughout their lives. Once the cringing lets down, at least.

Set aside some of those hard-won resources, and maybe you can treat your daughter during her leaner years, along with any family of her own she may have. I feel confident projecting that she’ll like you much better then, and be a lot more fun.

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