Notes on Parenting

Insights for parenting babies, toddlers, teens, and young adults.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Traveling With Teens

by Linda Shaw

As my teenage son and I were standing in line to board a plane, we overheard the conversation of the passengers in front of us as they enthusiastically spoke of our hometown. First I saw my son’s ears perk up, and then I watched his body lean in as he prepared to speak. I quickly stepped in front of him and whispered, “It’s not our conversation.”

It was hard for him (with his outgoing personality) to contain himself, but he managed. As we boarded the plane he continued to practice his good manners in a way that not only made me smile but also helped me relax and enjoy the trip.

As the cost of gasoline has skyrocketed and the airline industry as deregulated, it has become increasingly popular for children of all ages to travel. Teens who have been used to sprawling across the back seat of the family car with little discipline from parents who were driving, must now face sharing their confined air-travel space with strangers.

In past air-travels I have been subjected to noise pollution via loud IPODs or CD players, and have endured the constant thumping of fingers that kept time to rap songs. On one occasion I complained to a steward, but was told that the flight would be over soon and to "hang in there." It was a long and memorable flight.

Preparation for travel manners begins long before the trip. In teaching basic manners, politeness, neighbor awareness, and selflessness, we help our teens understand societies codes for happy travel. Author Kay West gives a few pointers on travel manners in her book, “ How to Raise a Gentleman…A Civilized Guide to Helping Your Son Through His uncivilized Childhood.” She says:

You know you are raising a gentleman if …..

  • He presents a neat appearance and maintains control of his belongings when traveling.
  • He does not confuse his seat for a bed.
  • He leaves the lavatory in better condition then he found it.
  • He keeps the volume of his Walkman at a level only he can hear, and turns it off during take-off or landing.
  • He turns off the volume on his computer and Game Boy games.

Parent Pointers (for traveling)

  • Arrange so that your teens sit with you and not 10 rows behind.
  • Prepare for delays by bringing extra food and water or books to read (even if your teen says they don’t need it, they have not traveled enough to understand the discomfort of delays)
  • Allow them to pack their own backpack.
  • Be a good example of proper dress and adhering to airline policies.
  • Be a good example of not complaining when itineraries change unexpectedly.
  • Open doors for the elderly and mother’s with strollers.

What other suggestions can you think of ?

A few that I thought of included:
You know you are traveling with a teenage gentlemen if:
  • He politely asks to pet a "service" dog and does not assume the dog will play.
  • He makes an effort to have "polite conversation" with the passenger next to him, and knows when to end the conversation.
  • He does not reach over the passenger seated by the window to look out, but respects this passengers space.
  • He does not complain about not getting to sit by the window.
  • He thinks of interesting and pertinent comments to share with the passenger next to him.
  • He refrains from pushing the call service button just to see if the stewardess will come.
  • He offers to turn on the "air" for all of the passengers in the row.
  • He waits his turn in getting off of the plane, successfully learning the rules of exit.

The Traveling experience has drastically changed in recent years. With increased competition and improved technology, the increased traveling of teens and children is sure to continue to grow.

Did your parents teach you how to be socially polite on your first flight?

How old were you when you first flew?

What do you remember about it? Good? Bad?

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