Ever wish there was a manual titled should my teenager spend time with the family of her boyfriend, or a similar guide, that magically landed on your doorstep? Parenting, especially of teenagers, is often a complex tapestry of choices and dilemmas, with no ‘right’ answers always at hand. Factors like maturity, impulsivity, trust, and the intense emotions that uniquely illuminate the adolescent brain, all contribute to the decision-making process. A universal book on raising kids may be absent, but remember, the collective wisdom of parents worldwide is an invaluable resource to lean on.
It depends on the family—on both of them.
Depending on how your family does things, there could be a quick “no way” or “sure” answer, but that’s not the case since you’re thinking about it. In some ways, it would be easier to have ideals that give us a simple answer to this problem. But for many parents who want to be both cautious and open-minded, the more likely scenario is that they will struggle to make a choice.
Your comfort level with the boyfriend’s family is a big thing to consider. My kids aren’t teenagers yet, but they have friends whose parents we know well and trust to be good parents to our kids. How well do you know them? How similar is their way of raising kids to yours? If your daughter is going to be away from you for a long time, you should know what kind of chaperoning to expect.
If you don’t know much about the boyfriend’s family, it doesn’t mean you should say “No,” but it does mean you should do more research. Write down some questions for the parents to help you gauge your level of comfort with them. For instance, “What’s the deal with accommodations? How will everyone get around, and what is the plan for each day? How are we going to communicate with her?”
It all depends on the teen.
The next big question is: How do you feel about your daughter? Do you trust her judgment? Is she responsible, honest, and careful, or does she act on impulse, resist, or leave out important information? Again, most teenagers are probably in the center ground between these two extremes. Even a responsible teen can still make risky, bad decisions, so there are no promises. But you should ask yourself if you really trust your kid.
Another thing to think about when thinking about who your daughter is is how she is with her boyfriend. Does it seem like a safe, polite, and grown-up relationship? I’ve met families who wouldn’t care if their daughter went on vacation with her boyfriend’s family, because the couple hadn’t given them any reason to worry. In fact, his parents already feel like he’s one of them. If you don’t know much about him or how they are together as a pair, you should be more hesitant. Obviously, if you see any red flags that he doesn’t treat her well or isn’t trustworthy, you probably already know what the best answer is.
I think at least some of your question is about safety, and it could be looked at from different points of view. There are safety concerns about your daughter spending multiple days with her boyfriend and how his family is involved. Then there are things about travel, like where she’s going on holiday, how she’ll be able to get in touch with you, and how far she is from you in case of an emergency.
Write down what you need to know to stop worrying about your daughter’s safety, find out the answers, and take this into account when you talk to your daughter next.
Getting to the Decision
Include your daughter in the decision-making process, but remember that you are the ones who have to live with the results. Even so, this process is important for your relationship, no matter what you decide. If you talk to her with the intent to listen as well as say what’s on your mind, she’ll feel like you care about her point of view and think she’s old enough to hear your worries in an adult way. She is more likely to believe you if she has heard at least some of your thoughts and knows that you are not trying to “ruin her life” if you say no.
Now, let’s be honest. You could have the most calm, grown-up conversation ever, but if you say no, she may still accuse you of things that aren’t true. I have worked with parents who know how to say “no” to their teen, but find it hard to do so because they expect a reaction like this.
When we say no to what they really, really want, it can set off a firestorm of emotions that only the toughest people can handle. It doesn’t help them, and they might not understand until they have their own teenagers. But saying no can hurt us just as much. That’s why it’s better for us to be the parents with fully formed brains to make decisions for them while their brains are still growing. If there was a guide to being a good parent, it would tell us that we need to make the hard decisions and deal with the consequences if it’s really what’s best for our kids.
There is no “right” answer to the question of whether you should let your daughter go on vacation with her boyfriend. Instead, there are a lot of factors to consider while deciding what’s best for your loved ones. Get the information you need, go with your gut, talk to your daughter honestly, and put her needs ahead of her wants.
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