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Patti’s Saga of an RV Rookie: Summer Secrets for Turning Teens Into Happy Campers

May 26, 2011 by · 13 Comments 

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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:

 “ They’re making me leave for, like, most of the summer. Like I want to live in the RV with them.”

“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.

 Here are 3 ways to diminish resentment adolescents may have about family RV trips, and perhaps eek out some great memories. My parents managed to do it, and I think you can, too.

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.

 Happy Tales,

 Patti

 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?

Comments

13 Responses to “Patti’s Saga of an RV Rookie: Summer Secrets for Turning Teens Into Happy Campers”
  1. Patti, Maybe the solution is to camp with other families and their teenagers? I camp with teenagers and we are still negotiating and navigating the highways and byways! Great post. Missy Trainer

  2. Patti Faustini says:

    Yes, Melissa, the presence of others of the same species can be quite helpful! I read elsewhere one idea was to “bring good board games.” Hmmm…I’m not sure how well that works on kids that are unhappy to be there in the first place.

    But, your idea is great. Even teens who have little in common, or are total strangers, can unite over campground travails!

    Happy tales,

    Patti

  3. Oh, bored games? (yes, typo intentional) I think board games are a recipe for disaster…I can hear the sibling squabbling already! Oh, that’s a toxic suggestion in my opinion. I think camping with other families is a good way to go. I can assure you that one way NOT to go is to bring your teenage daughter to a national park campground with her two brothers and THEN announce that there are no hookups, no hair dryers, no heat in the camper, no wifi, and worst of all not even any showers in the campground. Yep. I did that last summer…that was a long week which was exacerbated when our car broke down at the top of a mountain in Yellowstone and we then had to sit at a service station for four hours…The roadside adventure got really interesting when we climbed into a massive diesel tow truck driven by a …..teenager! In the end, we had an awesome time even if there was a “teeny” bit of squabblingduring that family vacation!!

  4. Patti Faustini says:

    Too funny, Melissa! These events do create great memories for our kids…maybe someday your daughter will be writing a blog about that trip!

    Happy tales,

    Patti

  5. Scott says:

    Thanks a lot for the ideas.

    We are about to take a 2 week trip with our 4 teenage kids.

    We need all the help we can get.

    Scott

  6. Patti Faustini says:

    Hello Scott, and it’s great hearing from you. I think four teens are a benefit…at least they have each other!

    I’d love to hear it goes. Have you camped as a family other times? What are you camping in?

    Have a great time and Happy Tales,

    Patti

  7. reinita says:

    We are currently camping with a 14-year-old boy and an 11-year-old (going on 21) girl. We brought our laptops and are using them. We spend quality family time, too, and even play computer games together.
    But our favorite time is usually fishing or sitting by the campfire telling stories about what life was like BEFORE computers, microwaves and — gasp! — cell phones.
    Our kids don’t whine. Too much.
    Happy camping!

  8. Patti Faustini says:

    Hi Reinita, It’s always great hearing from you. I think it helps a lot if kids can do some of their favorite things AND some of the campfire things. Sometimes when we insist everyone be “unplugged” the net result isn’t what we hope for. I confess, when we’re camping, I’m plugged in every chance I get! But each family is different, and knows what works best for them.

    My high school buddy, Peggy, wrote me in response to my blog, talking about her great memories of camping with my family and me back in the day. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven each time my parents let me bring a friend, which was often. I’m so thankful for those memories, and I’m sure your kids will be, too.

    Happy tales,
    Patti

  9. reinita says:

    Aww, thanks, Patti. That was very nice of you to say.
    We’re, not surprisingly, camping this weekend. DD11 gets to bring a friend. DS14 gets to bring his Algebra book and notes (he’s got a final next week). DS4 will bring about half his toys, all sorted by type in zip-top bags (don’t ask).
    Happy camping!

  10. Patti Faustini says:

    You’re most welcome, Reinita. Let us all know how your multi-teen camp out goes…and that Algebra final!

    Happy tales to you and yours,

    Patti

  11. Reinita says:

    Camping trip was a huge success. It involved s’mores, camp fires, fishing, biking and swimming. And, yes, some computer time. After all, we’re not Luddites.
    The final? We’ll know in a couple of days. Gulp.

  12. Patti Faustini says:

    What fun, Reinita. I’m so glad you had fun…and that you’re not all Luddites!

    Happy Tales to you and those four teens (and Dad),

    Patti

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