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Archive for Monday, April 4, 2011

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Double Take: Involve kids while making summer vacation plans

April 4, 2011

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Wes: Spring break 2011 is in the record books, and if you haven’t already finished it, summer planning should be well under way. When kids are younger, it’s easier to plan vacations because preteens are more malleable than their older counterparts. In response, some parents give up and let 16-year-olds stay home. Others try to force-fit them into trips that hold little or no interest, then wonder why they get all sorts of recreational blowback.

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Watch for the annual Double Take co-author contest later this month. Seniors and exceptional juniors can vie for the 2011-2012 co-authorship of Double Take and a scholarship of at least $1,100 for their freshman year of college.

Still others commit the cardinal sin of trying to meet the needs of teens and preteens in the same family. That’s often developmentally unmanageable.

I suggest that for the over-12 crowd, a family meeting be called to brainstorm ideas. Set a budget, give some parameters of what’s doable, then take kid input seriously. If teens differ a great deal, work in some ideas from each. It may take more than one meeting, but this can actually be a great problem-solving exercise. If compromise fails, one parent may want to take half the kids to Mall of America and the other half to Six Flags or whatever impasse was reached. There’s no rule that says family vacations have to include everyone everywhere, and the chance for more one-on-one time can even be preferable.

I also find that bringing along a responsible friend or even a dating partner can turn a ho-hum trip to Hoover Dam into a fun and memorable summer retreat. So even though it adds complexity, consider exchanging travel with another family if your teen asks, or even make that suggestion yourself.

Ben: The first day of school is basically one big round of story time. “I went here…” “I did this...” It’s no fun when people are talking about their trip to Switzerland or riding dolphins in Florida to be the guy talking about reruns or how much sleep he got. We all want a good summer story. So what makes a good story?

Scenario. Movie directors incorporate odd settings and scenarios into their films to make them more memorable. Simba gets in trouble in an elephant boneyard; Rocky trains by punching giant cuts in a meat locker. Weird scenarios make for memorable experiences, so try something a little peculiar.

Conflict. Good stories involve triumph over an obstacle. In other words, do something hard. It’s great to go somewhere and relax, but I hiked my first mountain, a fourteener (peaks higher than 14,000 feet), this summer and look back on that trip with more pride and fondness than any vacation I’ve experienced. So hike a trail, help out your community, do something that requires breaking a sweat. The reward is invaluable.

Think about scenario and conflict this summer. Do something worth telling about. Everybody loves lazy days, but there’s nothing particularly interesting about a lazy summer.

Next week: If you’re in need of some ideas, Ben and Wes offer their top-three suggestions for good teen and family destinations.

— Send your questions about adolescent issues (limited to 200 words) to doubletake@ljworld.com.

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