Spring is fast approaching, and if you have a teen in the house you know what that means. Yes, April showers don’t only bring flowers. This time of year can also bring on the teen doldrums—especially if you have a teen who’s nearing graduation. Especially if he’s a teen that doesn’t have much of a clue about what happens once he gets that diploma.
If you’re in that boat, let me suggest something that might help you out a bit: let your student plan a trip.
Now I’m not just talking any old wild-and-free road-trip, nor am I talking about spending the summer at grandma’s. I’m talking about crafting an experience that can help introduce your teen to new cultures and possibly to a future career.
5 Ways to Use Travel as a Tool for Teen Exploration
Lack of motivation regarding the future isn’t necessarily a sign of a lazy teen. It also isn’t a sign of low intelligence. Your son or daughter may be having a difficult time deciding on a course of further action for other reasons. For example:
- Perhaps he’s been fortunate enough to develop many interests and skills over the years, and just can’t “pick one.”
- Perhaps she has no real picture of her personal strengths and weaknesses.
- Perhaps he’s had limited interaction in “real life” environments and can’t make a connection between his interest/abilities to date and the future training required to turn them into a career.
For these and many other reasons, time abroad in the world-at-large may be just the ticket to developing your teen’s skills and helping them discover their calling.
Traveling As a Family
Now I know you may be discouraged by the fact that finances are tough, or that it doesn’t look like you could pull off a big trip, but don’t dismiss the idea too quickly: there are options! Arm-chair travel is often a way to whet your teen’s appetite for a greater experience down the road. At the very least you’d be piquing their curiosity and giving them the motivation to start saving, and that wouldn’t be so bad, would it? So let’s start there!
There are many ways to encourage learning about distant places and peoples during the holidays. Plan now to have your family participate in Operation Christmas Child this fall, or sponsor a child through Compassion International, World Vision, or other organization. Learning about the countries served ahead of time helps bring depth and meaning to your teen’s involvement in these activities.
- Arrange a day trip or long weekend to a nearby city and schedule a foreign film, trip to a museum, or cultural arts center, and top if off with a meal at the local “Chinatown,” “Little Italy,” or similar location. Talk about what it might be like to live in one of those places. Discuss and explore ways that your family’s dreams might become a reality.
- If you are able to travel a little further, consider some of the potential value for your kids! I’d say middle school and older would be able to benefit directly in ways even beyond character development—and there are many character traits that travel helps build! In today’s day and age, it is possible to discover a future career just by packing a suitcase!
- A great way to combine service and cross-cultural learning with travel is to take a short-term family mission trip. Your pastor or church office would be a great starting point for this option. Often churches and denominations have individuals, couples or families that they sponsor and support. You may even have some friends who are missionaries whom you could contact. There is a real need for volunteers in overseas missions, and they’re wonderful learning experiences! Our family went on many while our two oldest kids were preschoolers, and our daughter and my husband went on one together when she was a tween. Responsible teens are often welcome on their own, but it’s always best to consult the sending agency first.
- If your teen is nearing their senior year and having serious difficulty nailing down a post- high school course of action, you may want to consider helping them plan a gap year. A gap year is typically taken the year after high school graduation. It can be a very practical way for teens to incorporate some real life experience towards charting a course for their future. Quite often, traveling abroad is a great choice during this time. Your teen could consider an internship with an overseas missionary, language learning abroad, an apprenticeship with an artisan or craftsman in another city, state or country…the possibilities are truly endless!
Traveling as a family can be both a fun and educational experience, something that all families would do well to consider. As your kids grow and move towards independence, consider travel a useful tool for helping your young adult find his or her place in the world.
There is oh-so-much your teen will learn from stretching their wings and moving away (even if just for vacation) from the nest!
About the author
From a tiny village on a Caribbean island to a rural town in the US South, Pat Fenner has been homeschooling her 5 children for 20 years through a lens on the world, learning and adapting her methods quite a bit during that time. Visit her blog at PatAndCandy.com.