Filed under: Family Camping, Grandparent Hints and Tips, Kid-Friendly Trips, Summer 2011, Uncategorized
Patti’s Saga of an RV Rookie: Summer Secrets for Turning Teens Into Happy Campers
Let’s take a look at actual statements that 12-16 year old students wrote about family camping, taken from a teacher ( who shall remain nameless) who intercepted hundreds of notes over the span of her 25 year career:
“Everyone will talk about me when I’m gone.”
“They said I can’t play internet video games even if the stupid campgrounds have Wi-Fi. That stinks.”
“Alex/John/James/Andy/Garth/Michael/Ian/Brenan/Juan/Gage will probably dump me. I mean, I’m going to be gone half the summer. I would dump me, too.”
“Ask your parents if I can stay with you for the summer; then maybe I won’t have to go.”
“They said texting is out; that I’m supposed to act like I’m a member of the family when we’re RVing and not ignore them. I wish I were in another family.”
This is serious stuff for adolescents. If you look closely, you’ll note the above quotes don’t reflect a dislike for families or camping so much as a desperation to retain social structures that, to teens, truly matter more than breathing. Unfortunately, fears of their peers’ rejection are often justified. If you follow the news, you know the ramifications of gossip and bullying can be far more ominous than when we were kids.
The issue isn’t awful parents or even how annoying it is being stuck in an RV with your chain-saw-snoring- exhausted-from-RV driving father (not my favorite memory); it’s about how some teens are impacted by leaving their friends during summer vacation.
So, how do parents show respect for their teens’ realities yet still (understandably) expect their adolescent children to camp with them? Carefully. Thoughtfully.
1) Recognize teen distress at leaving friends during the summer is real, legitimate and that their lives are impacted by leaving their friends. The truth is, it’s not really about you.
2) Treat teen concerns about family camping with respect. How would you like it if someone determined, withour your consent, you’ll be leaving your life for three or four weeks? Avoid saying, “ I know how you feel,” when talking with your child about this topic, because you don’t . You do, however, care about how your child feels and sees things, and I’ve found that kids need to hear that. A lot.
3) Consider dredging up some flexibility: perhaps you’ve told your teen “no texting” on your RV trip. Your ears burn at the sight of teen thumbs punching maniacally on cell phones when everyone else is participating is singing old family favorites around the campfire. Completely understandable. However, what benefits might result from the following conversation starter? :
“It must be hard to leave your friends for three weeks this summer. I know we’ve said ‘no texting on the trip,” but we’ve thought more about that. Would you like to negotiate some texting or cell time during the trip?”
Then, let the negotiations begin. But, your needs matter, too. If the thought of watching teens text under the awning at dinner provokes an urge to throw their cell phones over that line of eight giant Class A’s, hold firm to your “No.”But, if you could handle watching them text at campground picnic tables after they’ve helped clean up, could you bend a little?
There is no proven way to convert a sulky, recalcitrant teen into Yogi Bear’s best friend. But I have found it is possible to create a more harmonious family camping experience by respecting your teen with your actions and words.
PS: I recognize that many teens love camping with their families. I wasn’t one of them. As a teen, my idea of family time was seeing my parents faces disappear as I tore away from the house in the front seat of my boyfriend’s GTO, shrieking “I’ll be back by 10:00.”
Yet, they were smart enough to drag me all over the United States for a month every summer during my teen years, hitting every national park from coast to coast, no matter how much I whined. And I’m so glad now they did. I was horrible…thousands of miles yelling to my Dad from the back of the station wagon “If we get off on that scenic route Mom wants, won’t that make the trip longer?” All I cared about was getting home to my real life. My social life. And that’s why, in my opinion, so many teens hate summer camping with their families. It’s not that they hate their families; it’s that they so desperately need to be with their friends and stay in the loop. And at that age, whoever is absent from the group can become the object of hurtful speculation and gossip. I think we can and should help them with this reality of growing up. What do you think?