The most valuable snippet of parenting advice that I have ever received came to me many years ago now from a man who was then the father of four older teenagers. He told me how he had taken each of his children away for a ‘walkabout’ adventure as each of them had turned 13. The first had been four days across the South Downs under canvas, the second had been two days walking in the New Forest and staying in a hotel – but by the time he came to the twins, it was a day out at Chessington World of Adventures.
At the time of hearing his tale, my son was two years-old and I was determined to learn from the difficulties faced by my more-experienced friend. His error, to my view at least, was to wait until the children were of an age when, frankly, they wouldn’t want to spend too much time with their Dad at all. And so began a series of adventures once a year with my son and then later separately with my daughter: camping out in the garden; camping out away from home; a (rather long) day trip to Rome; a weekend in Germany; a road trip around Somerset; a cycle ride across Surrey and so on. These mini-adventures, perhaps as much so and perhaps more so even than our family holidays, now make up some of my fondest memories of each year of the children’s lives.
It has been a tough few months for families as well as for teenagers. We have spent a lot of time together and we have been stuck in the house together rather more than normal. Everyone likes to have something to look forward to, so maybe it is time for parents to start looking ahead to next summer and to creating an adventure with their children which will be possible even in the ‘new normal’ of our coronavirus world? It is eminently possible to get your children out of the house and away from their screens through some shared endeavour and now is the moment to start inspiring each other and bringing together some early plans.