Teenage kicks: How to keep your teens entertained on holidays 

Hovering between childhood and adulthood, staycations with older children can be challenging. Negotiation will help to ensure a happy outcome for all
Teenage kicks: How to keep your teens entertained on holidays 
Preparation and compromise are the secrets to a successful staycation with teens. Picture: Stock image

FAMILY holidays are often fraught with tension as their very makeup means that everyone has different needs, likes and dislikes. But while younger children can usually be entertained with swimming pools, a stretch of sand and unlimited ice-cream, their older siblings are not so easily amused.

In pre-pandemic times, their lack of enthusiasm for the simple pleasures in life could have been motivated by thoughts of international travel. However, enticing a teenager to a coastal Irish resort is a much harder task.

With three young adults myself, I’m well aware of the need to consider their needs and over the years have found myself enjoying activities I never would have dreamed of doing as we bonded over precious holiday moments.

This year, everyone is being encouraged to explore Ireland. Demand for accommodation has been unprecedented, but recent reports show that while self-catering may be difficult to find in certain areas, only 30% of hotel rooms have been booked this summer.

Psychologist Peadar Maxwell says we should take advantage of spending time together this summer.

“It’s important to present the idea of a family holiday as the positive, normal experience it is and let young adults know they are really wanted on the trip,” he says. 

I would advise parents to find out what would make it interesting for them – and also to realise that they need to have shared activities along with some level of freedom.

“So a parent might find themselves on a soccer stadium tour or in a shopping centre when they’d rather be at a gallery or at the pool because compromise is needed. This takes a bit of research, allowing young people to also choose some options. And most parents will be surprised at the positive response to things like a hike, a chilled-out afternoon at the beach or a simple barbecue at rented accommodation —  as all of these things feel different when you’re away.” 

Even if things go wrong, which they invariably will, Maxwell says it’s important to stay upbeat.

“Someone will be too hot or too cold, tired or hungry at different times or maybe demand things beyond the budget - so anticipate these things and plan for them,” he advises. “They are all surmountable when parents are willing to compromise.

“The gains outweigh the preparation needed and holidaying with your growing child is a great way to connect, have different experiences together, and to allow some age-appropriate freedom.” 

Psychotherapist Stella O’Malley agrees and says that while many teens are not too keen on the usual family holiday activities, by allowing them to participate in the preparation, they will feel more included in the trip.

“Parents could involve older teens in the planning as although there might be a clamour of voices from younger siblings about what they want, most young children will be happy with any holiday. However, the older teen will have more in-depth likes and dislikes so their views are more likely to be deciding factors on whether they will go or not.” 

If teens are very reluctant to join in the family break, O’Malley says parents need to stay calm. “I have heard of a lot of stress when parents have forced teenagers to take part in childish activities that appal them. This is not because the teenagers are being selfish, it is because they are trying to grow up and part of that process involves leaving behind certain childish activities  — so it feels horribly embarrassing to be made partake in these, and it is unfair."

Diplomacy often works best when faced with conflict.

“I like the phrase ‘You can lure them with a silver string but you can’t push them with an iron bar’ when it comes to teenagers," says O'Malley. "It is up to the adults to find a couple of activities that could interest the teenager rather than forcing them into something they would hate.” 

Peadar Maxwell advises parents to negotiate with their teenage children. 

“Remind your older child that everyone needs a chance at choosing what happens and sometimes means going with the flow one day, so they choose next time,” he says. 

Compromise should be discussed in advance in a positive manner. We all need to learn to cooperate and be obliging at times and the punishment route creates dramas secondary to the original problems.

“Ultimately holidaying together is a great opportunity for family members to experience the fun side of one another. And planning a break that is considerate of differing ages, interests and personalities is the best start to achieve that.” 

I can attest to that as there have been many compromises over the years in my house, but overall, we have had some fantastic experiences around the country.

Some of my favourites include:

  • Kilkenny is a great place to visit with teenagers, from the Medieval Mile city tour to Kilkenny Castle and then to the fantastic  Discovery Park in nearby Castlecomer where Ireland’s longest zip wire, Octagon High Ropes, and archery will keep them amused for hours while parents can either join in or go for a forest walk, a boating trip or a spot of fishing. Other alternatives include Kiltorcan Raceway for petrol heads and Kilkenny Airsoft for target practice.
  • In Clare there is plenty to do with water sports at West Coast Aquapark and Lahinch Surf School while those who want to stay dry will love Doolin and Ailwee caves, the Burren and Bunratty Castle.
Bodyboards on beach vacation
Bodyboards on beach vacation
  • The north-west coast is a great part of the country to visit with young adults as there is so much adventure to be had. Westport Adventure Centre has an array of exciting activities for your restless teens. Surf Mayo and Delphi Adventure Centre are also great options. In Roscommon, Lough Key Forest Park offers everything from zip wiring and treetop adventures to Segway hire and the indoor interactive Boda Borg puzzle game. 
  • Other options your teens are sure to love include drifting at Mondello Park, archery and shooting at Redhills Adventure, and an array of activities and cool accommodation at www.kilkeacastle.ie and if you are planning to head further north, Titanic Belfast,  Bushmills distillery and SkyPark are well worth a visit.
SFTWA Archery
SFTWA Archery
  • For those whose older teens are almost ready to fly the nest, what could be better than a few days on campus? Many of the universities rent out rooms during the summer and this allows parents to see where their children will be living, the would-be students to get a feel of a college environment and as most offer affordable short break lets, they are ideal for city breaks. See: www.campusliving.ie and www.dcuaccomodation.ie 

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