My mom took my tween daughter on a day trip to New York City during the holidays. They rode the train together, saw the giant tree, ate lunch at a “fancy” restaurant, and saw the Radio City Rockettes. They left at 7:30 a.m. and returned at 7:30 p.m., and my daughter hasn’t stopped talking about it since. Highlights included live camels on the stage, the “most amazing” steak ever, lots of conversation about everything, and even surviving a train breakdown. You might think that last one would deter her such adventures, but she can’t wait for the next one. My daughter was gifted an entire day of time spent with her grandmother. They strengthened their relationship, laughed, learned new things, and navigated a city together. They made memories that they’ll both carry with them forever.
Family travel presents an excellent opportunity to bond with tweens. Tweens tend to be up for anything—even if finding coveted free time can be difficult. Packing a bag and heading out on a trip can help you maintain your connection while having a ton of fun. In fact, research shows that experiential gifts help foster stronger relationships because of the emotions evoked when the recipient consumes the gift. This remains true whether or not the recipient uses the gift with the gift-giver.
Not yet convinced? Here are more reasons to hit the road or hop a plane with your tween.
1. You will strengthen your relationship
Traveling with tweens gives families time to bond and strengthen their connections. It’s no big secret that tweens are busy these days. Between school, friendships, and extra-curricular activities, tweens keep jam-packed schedules. Getting out of town lets you spend time together away from the distractions of everyday life.
2. You will try new things together
Travel makes us more well-rounded, teaches us to embrace differences, and leaves us thirsty for more knowledge. When families travel, they are immersed in hands-on learning together. From savoring new flavors to connecting with local culture, family vacations offer life-changing experiences that tweens will appreciate for years to come.
3. You will make incredible memories
Tweens face a lot of pressure these days. From academic stress to peer pressure to living up to what feel like endless expectations, it can be difficult to for tweens to slow down and connect with their parents. Whether you plan a day trip to a new city or a weeklong getaway in a foreign country, taking your tween on a trip is a guaranteed memory-maker. When you’re both removed from the stress of daily life, you free up emotional space to enjoy your surroundings. You don’t have to break the bank on every exciting tourist attraction. The simple act of discovering a new destination together can be enough to form a lifetime of memories.
4. Travel promotes confidence
Introducing tweens to unfamiliar places, people, and cultures encourages them to step outside their carefully constructed comfort zones. Whether they learn to communicate in a different language or embark on an adventure they would normally avoid, family travel offers a safe space to learn new things together, which builds self-confidence. They also learn that they are capable of thriving outside of their bubbles. We don’t always conceptualize travel as a life skill, but unless your tween plans to live at home forever, she has to learn how to navigate the world on some level. The more tweens travel with parents, the more they learn how to manage travel on their own.
5. We need to disconnect to reconnect
Many families struggle with the push-and-pull of the digital world. Parents bring their work home in their pockets. Tweens never miss a beat with their friends. Dinners are interrupted, car rides are silent (minus the text alert ringtone), and even family movie nights may fall victim to constant device-checking. Family trips give us the perfect excuse to disconnect from the digital world and reconnect face-to-face. In leaving technology behind, families have the opportunity to reduce their stress, engage in meaningful interactions, and enjoy one another for an extended period of time. It’s the perfect antidote to a world that moves a mile a minute.
Parenting mythology leads us to believe that the tween years are a time of pulling away from parents and figuring things out independently. The truth is, tweens need their parents just as much as their younger siblings do, but they need them in a different way. Giving your tween the gift of travel can keep your bond strong as she works her way through the murky territory that is adolescence.