In the spirit of the new school year…
This is my 7th year teaching middle schoolers. Yay! Another year has begun. And over the years, I have found that a middle schooler wants the same thing we, as adults, want: respect. Granted, respect, in most cases, is not given, it’s earned (as it should be). But when it comes to travel, I think we should involve our children in the discussion. I sat down with a few of my seventh graders and asked them what part of the discussion they wish they could be a part of. Below are the things they asked me to write.
Location, Location, Location
The first thing they wanted to be apart of was the decision of where to travel to. All of them agreed that this was the most important thing. Each student explained, in their own way, that even if they knew that the final decision wasn’t theirs, they would still honor the opportunity to voice their opinion. (And if you need ideas of where to go, you can check out my articles here, here, and here!)
Where We Rest Our Heads
The next interest for my students was where they and their families would stay. They weren’t interested in the location of their home away from home (city vs. rural, etc). They were only interested in knowing what type of place they would be staying at (for example, hotel vs. motel, camping vs. glamping, caravaning vs. bed & breakfast, etc.) Not only were they interested in weighing in on the decision, but all of them wanted to be prepared (for example, in the event that they are camping vs. staying in a hotel).
My students then wanted to know about what they would be participating in once they got to their final destination. Is this an adventure trip with activities like rock climbing and ziplining? Or is this a relaxing trip where they play at the beach for a large majority of the time? They did understand that the decision of where to go often dictates what their families would be doing. However they still felt that it was an important part of the discussion.
We Want Food
All kids think about is food, which I’m sure you are aware of. These students made it clear that they want to know what is going to be on the menu during their vacation!
Who Will We See
My students were really interested in considering who they were going to see on their travels. They wanted to ask their parents if any of their family would join them (aunts, uncles, cousins, and/or grandparents) This included whether or not they would be traveling to visit extended family. They also were interested in the discussion of bringing a friend. I asked if they had ever discussed the option of bringing a friend with their parents and they said no. They assumed their parents would say no so they didn’t even ask. I did remind them that they are talking to me about wanting to be involved, so wouldn’t that mean you put everything out on the table for discussion? That was something they had never thought about. Understanding that children of this age group tend to assume, for the most part, that the answers to their questions will be negative can change the way we address them completely. Know that your child wants to discuss these things but may not know how to ask. If you are in a discussion, do your best to hit every point you may think they want information on. You never know, it may open their minds enough that they come up with a question about something you had never considered!
Timing is Everything
The last two things my students wanted to discuss was about time. They wanted to be involved in deciding how long they would be on vacation for, especially if they were going to a place they had never been. Second, my students wanted to know how much time traveling to and from their final destination would take. Knowing how long the travel time would allow them to prepare for the long haul if needed.
Every year I try to teach my students that open, honest communication and compromise are the key ingredients to a healthy relationship. Whether it be student-teacher, friend-friend, boyfriend-girlfriend, or child-parent, it’s the same formula for success. It isn’t often that everybody gets everything they want, so we work on attaining the skills to appreciate the compromise when the only other option is walking away with nothing. When it comes to travel, your middle schooler needs to understand that being a part of the discussion is a part of the reward, but doesn’t guarantee that they will get everything they want. The point of them being involved is so that they can make their opinions heard and considered as well as hearing your explanation of your travel plans and decisions. I believe that it will benefit not only the parent but the child as well.
Ultimately my students wanted me to let you know that even if they don’t seem interested at times, they really are. They enjoy being a part of the process and think it makes for a better vacation experience with their family.