Does your teen or tween every travel alone? “Of course not,” you say. What about school trips in middle school or high school? What about overnight camp and day trips or overnights they may take?
Any time your kids do something without you, they are travelling alone. Once kids are old enough to have these opportunities, they are old enough to not only understand important safety rules about travelling without you, but understand how to care for themselves and their health a bit. In fact, if they can’t accomplish either of those tasks, perhaps they are not quite ready to be on their own.
Top Ten Travel Alone Issues To Talk To Your Teens and Tweens About:
- Health issues
- Travel safety
- Calling Mom and Dad
- Technology On the Go
- Hotel safety
- 911 moments
- Basic first aid
- Restaurant etiquette
- Public Do’s and Don’ts
- The Dating Game
Does your teen or tween know his health history? How about when her last tetanus shot was? Even if a trip is supervised, adults won’t be around all the time and with so many kids to keep track of, won’t be able to rattle off every piece of information about every child. Your teens’ best health historian is himself. Simply review the highlights and write them down. Create a wallet card or small computer print out for your teen to have on hand and all health information bases will be covered. Essentials to focus on include:
- Important illnesses and surgeries
- Medications and medication allergies
- Last tetanus shot dates
- Health insurance card copy and number
Does your tween or teen understand how to travel safely? Whether by air, car, boat, bus or train, it is important that your teen have a sense of safety issues for those modes of transportation. Review what to do in case your teen gets separated from the group. Explain safety procedures if there will be any, and the importance of taking those seriously. And, explain that with other passengers around, hoarsing around and being loud is not acceptable.
Calling Mom and Dad
With cell phones so prevalent, many kids in the tween and teen age group don’t know their parents cell phone numbers. Make sure your teen knows yours. Review it with her. Write it down and put it in her wallet if you have to but don’t just rely on her speed dial!
Technology On The Go
Teens and tweens often think that being away from home is carte blanche for extra cell phone use or IM use. It is crucial that teens understand that they are not safe with earphones in. If running, have a partner. Never talk and walk. And, never IM anyone he doesn’t know.
Hotels are great fun and teens become very excited being in a hotel room without their family. Review etiquette with your teen as well as common law concepts and the fact that the walls are thinner than they appear. Review locking the door. Review not letting strangers into their room.
I try and keep this simple with kids away from home. If they are scared or uncomfortable and feel at all unsafe, that is a 911 moment. Better to call authorities than get into trouble. Feeling unsafe is not the time to consult a friend; it is the time to call for real help.
Basic First Aid
Most local fire departments and health centers have basic first aid classes for teens and this is a fantastic idea. These courses review everything from wound care to CPR and will come in handy when you are not around. I’d strongly recommend this before your teen ventures on any trip without you.
Even savvy older kids don’t understand how pick pockets and criminals think. So, be very clear and specific with your teen and tween about safe ATM use and how to pull money out of a wallet. Review concepts like not putting a wallet on a counter or table and, for girls, not leaving a purse on the back of a chair.
Public Do’s and Don’ts
This is a tough one for teens! They have to understand they represent themselves, their family and their organization. Other people are around and they have to remember to be polite and responsible. Sometimes under the influence of peers they forget this.
The Dating Game
It is when teens are on trips like this that first dating experiences often happen: first kisses, for example! Many organized trips have policies about fraternization and it would be a good idea to review these policies with your teen as well as reviewing safe sex practices. They key is to try and get information across without coming across too strongly. Talking about more old fashioned dating concepts like holding hands may come in useful if your teen finds himself in a dating situation and wants to create some intimacy without going too far.
If you can impart these words of wisdom, your teen and tween will be safer and more prepared than others. And, should your teen accuse you of not trusting her while reviewing these ideas, simply tell her that it will make you feel better to know she understands these things – that you’re having trouble with her venturing out into the world! And, remind him that it isn’t him that you don’t trust but the rest of the world. Tweens and teens usually do well with explanations like this.
(Originally posted July 2008; Updated December 2009)