Take the Kids

What Teenagers Really Want

Issue 9 - 2018
Words by Gill Morgan · Images Gallery Stock

Moody teenagers can wreck a family holiday. But with a bit of lateral thinking, says mother-of-three Gill Morgan, even the sulkiest of teens can enjoy themselves

Issue 9 - 2018
By Gill Morgan · Images Gallery Stock

Moody teenagers can wreck a family holiday. But with a bit of lateral thinking, says mother-of-three Gill Morgan, even the sulkiest of teens can enjoy themselves

Bad news first: if, as a parent, you’re on the brink of entering the hormonally-fuelled psychodrama that is your children's adolescence, your holidays are about to get a whole lot more complicated. Family trips with teenagers can be dispiriting business. I've had so many conversations with friends over the years bewailing the fact that the longed-for family summer break has been wrecked by whichever offspring is at the epicentre of their temporary personality disorder.

 

So how to avoid having a bored and borderline hostile teen in tow? How to achieve a holiday that somehow delivers what everyone wants. I’ve had my own share of hits and misses, so here are 10 things I’ve learned after 10 years of holidaying with teenagers.

 

1. Don’t underestimate them.
They don’t just want screens and underage cocktails (well OK, sometimes they do). They also have dreams and intense interests and obsessions, if you can only tap into them. They’re just different from yours. The key is finding a trip that connects in some way to their passions. Whether it’s football, fashion, art or skateboarding, think laterally. One stand-out experience at the start or end of the holiday that really inspires them can make all the difference. When my eldest daughter was doing art A Level, we often ended up in the edgiest of galleries, from upstate New York to Venice – it was as fun for us as it was inspiring for her.

 

2. About those underage cocktails...
Holidays are about freedom for all of us, so think of it from their point of view. Just at the stage when they’re pushing against the boundaries and wanting to go under the radar, they’re stuck with their wretched parents 24 hours a day. I'm talking, of course, about older teens here, but a sneaky drink in a bar sans parents is a very particular holiday thrill when such things are still out of reach at home. Other parents may feel differently but I think a bit of leniency on holiday at 16 goes a long way.

 

3. Don't make the mistake of trying to repeat the thing they loved when they were eight...
the thing that you still love. That rural French gite with bad wi-fi and a lovely artisan market down the road just doesn’t cut it for two weeks at 14, even if the pool’s quite nice. Neither does the gastro-tour of Tuscany. Not unless there’s another couple of families with teens in tow that they really, really fancy.

 

4. Holidays are about fantasies...
and no one is more committed to fantasy than teenagers. They’re life’s romantics – play to this. They don’t want ordinary or sensible. So do the crazy thing: lie in the snow gazing at the stars in Iceland; swim at midnight in the moonlit phosphorescence; let them sit on the steps of the Met in New York and pretend they’re in Gossip Girl. It doesn’t have to be expensive to be thrilling.

 

 

That rural french gite with bad wi-fi just doesn’t cut it when they’re 14

 

 

5. Be aware of their sensitivities.
If one of your teenagers is going through a period of feeling horribly self-conscious about their body, then maybe give the beach holiday a miss this year and do something intrepid that takes their mind off how they look. Telling them not to be so silly and that no one is looking at them anyway won’t work.

 

6. A bit of jeopardy can be a good thing...
and doing the scary thing together as a family is amazingly bonding. Obviously we don’t recommend putting anyone in harm’s way, but – within reason – jump off the rocks, attempt the red ski run, let them go on the highest zipwire, hire the moped that you wouldn’t countenance back home. It’s all part of what makes them feel they have lived.

 

7. Don’t be too absolutist about tech.
A gaggle of siblings watching Love Island on an iPhone in a strangely inappropriate location can be a lovely sight to behold, and it puts them in a very good mood. Once they’ve got it out of their system, they can join the Human Race again.

 

8. Let them see you a bit...jolly.
Older children love seeing their parents ease off on the sensible mum-and-dad act. Ours have especially enjoyed witnessing their otherwise vehemently anti-smoking father enjoy the odd slightly sozzled post-dinner holiday Gitane.

 

9. And the quid pro quo for all this jollity...
force them to attend one obscure cultural event each holiday. Make sure they know it’s just the one, but the deal is, they don’t moan about it. The chances are they’ll remember it for the rest of their lives. I once had to endure Molière IN FRENCH with my parents. To this day I have no idea what was going on, but I can absolutely summon a feeling of frivolity and farce and utter foreignness from the evening.

 

10. If in doubt, take a hostage.
If your teenager is going through a phase of finding it impossible to treat you as a fellow human being, consider taking their friend with you. Their behaviour tends to improve overnight and you may start to recognise what their mates see in them. You might even remember that you quite like them yourself.

 

 

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