Enjoying a Family Vacation with Your Teen

Summers in British Columbia offer endless opportunities for outdoor activities with friends and family. You may even be considering a trip with the kids before school is back in session. Imagine spending 10 days on a wilderness trip with a group of teens – sound like fun? This is one of the highlights of our jobs at Take a Hike!

The Take a Hike Program (TAH) - a unique and innovative school based alternate program – carries out these types of excursions three times per year. Last summer, inclusion of the students’ families was incorporated for these at-risk youth on a shorter 3 day kayak getaway. During this excursion, the teens and their families experienced many things together such as paddling in kayaks, setting up camp, cooking, cleaning, and exploring BC’s ocean environment.

Based on our experience working with teenagers, here are some tips for making your summer adventures a more enjoyable experience for all!

Have Snacks Ready When Traveling

Be sure to have snacks handy to avoid cranky teens – it’s difficult to find a store or restaurant out in the wilderness! Take a Hike carries a supply of emergency snacks with us for those days we aren’t able to stop for lunch. We teach and expect our teens to have their own snacks ready and to self-regulate based their energy levels. We delve into our emergency stash if a teen finds they’ve stored their food somewhere out of reach – they will need it for energy to continue on and keep up with the group.

Particularly as a parent on a road trip, you will thank yourself for bringing along a stash of trail mix, fruit, water or juice to hand out as energy levels diminish. Everyone is happier on a full stomach!

Lead with Your Behavior

At the TAH program we are always ready for surprises - no matter how well we plan, unexpected events are bound to happen. When we go on our camping trip this August with our teens in the program, we will be exploring the dimensions of bringing teens and family members together in a multi-day kayaking trip. Planning is essential, but the unexpected will happen. How we act as adults is crucial for a successful family trip. Keeping a calm and clear attitude will always impact the family or group in a positive way.

Accept the Urge for Teen Autonomy

On TAH trips, there are times where we allow the teens to just be with one another, or spend some time alone. We set up boundaries and parameters to allow for this. This gives teens a sense independence and time away from the adults.

While on a family trip, set up some boundaries and parameters for your own teen to find some space. Tell them to meet back for lunch in one hour, and allow them to explore on their own during that time. A bit of time apart will give the family a much needed break - being together will be more pleasant and cherished once everyone re-groups.

Create a Sense of Adventure and Challenge

Some may consider an adventure to be souvenir shopping in a new town. Others may see it as kayaking around an island. Adventures do not need to be scary or physically exhausting. Trying something new will create excitement and wonder. This may vary from letting them explore a music store or bookstore, to hiking up and camping on top of a mountain. Try to include your teen’s interests into your vacation plan to help ensure that he or she stays engaged.

From all the staff at Take a Hike, we wish you wonderful adventures this summer. Have fun, and always prepare for the unexpected!

– Contributed by Klaus Klein, MA, Registered Clinical Counsellor, Take a Hike therapist


Counselling,Parenting Tips