A wind of freedom has been blowing over the country since the last health restrictions were lifted. After a masked and partly confined year, everyone can finally dream of travel and wide open spaces. The time has come for some families to approach summer vacation. And that’s where the puzzle begins for parents of teenagers. Indeed, an age arrives when the latter no longer want to go with them too much. “It usually starts at the end of college, observes Geneviève Djénati, psychologist and family psychotherapist. The following year, they return to high school where they will be very independent and this prospect makes them want a change. “
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Even if they expect it, parents can feel a little taken aback when their teenager announces to them, sometimes overnight, that he prefers to go away with friends. “This news often upsets a family ritual, but taking a distance from parents is part of the adolescent’s normal development, recalls the psychologist Jean-Luc Aubert (1). The first vacation with friends is a preliminary experience to what will happen later, when he leaves home. And the role of parents is to allow him to gain autonomy so that he can take care of himself, with others. “
After this very special year, during which the families lived in a sometimes stifling closed room, the teenagers’ desire for freedom is all the more ardent. “I think they really want to get some fresh air, confirms Béatrice Copper-Royer, clinical psychologist. If the family withdrawal, during the first confinement, could have given rise to a somewhat encouraging reunion, in the long term this was no longer the case. They want to reunite with their friends or other young people their age during the summer. “
The colo solution
The summer camp is often the preferred solution for parents, as for Laurence, mother of a 16-year-old boy: “My son left for the first time last year, she says. He did a catamaran course with two friends, and they liked the experience so much that they are leaving again this year. It is a good formula. They meet up with friends and practice activities without having the parents on their backs. “
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Guillaume Légaut, Director General of UCPA, confirms the appetite of families for these stays which allow adolescents to “To emancipate oneself and to experience adventures in nature with young people from different backgrounds, while being supervised”. An observation shared by Benoit Fontaine, director of the Vacation service of the Teaching League: “There is an awareness, especially after confinement, of the value of these stays in community where teenagers can get some fresh air and practice unusual activities. “ Often sporting activities and even “Thrilling” popular with young people, at an age when they generally have a taste for risk.
And when the summer camp is not possible, can we send the teenager to the grandparents? “Yes, if he gets along well with them and if he can find friends there that he is used to seeing on vacation”, answers Jean-Luc Aubert. The prospect of finding cousins can also appeal to him, provided they are the same age. The alternative is to invite a friend, “But the stay must not be too long, otherwise it risks getting bored and the family too”, warns Béatrice Copper-Royer.
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Patrick and five other Parisians have found an original solution. The project of their children having fallen through, they decided to rent a bungalow in a campsite, half an hour from Paris, to still allow them to spend a week together. “We did it late, so we kept it simple, he said. As they are still minors (16 and 17 years old) and that I am teleworking, I will support them ”, explains this devoted father. To keep the six teenagers busy, “Who will manage themselves”, he says, Patrick has an unstoppable weapon: board games. “They may be on the screens, when we offer them to play together, they are always up for it. “
No total autonomy before 17-18 years
A point of view also defended by Natacha Hennon, co-founder of the Toutsurmonado site: “When parents offer their teenagers to do activities together, most are happy to share moments of bonding with them, even if they can gripe a little. Contrary to popular belief, they are not always reluctant to leave as a family. “ The key is to know how to interest them. And to plan, when possible, “A vacation spot where they can do activities or meet other young people”, recommends Béatrice Copper-Royer who also advises parents “To be available and not half telework”.
The important thing, adds Jean-Luc Aubert, “Is to prepare the holidays together, by setting rules, even if it is necessary to know how to be flexible and to accept that the teenager does not have the same rhythm as the adults”. However, the psychologist recalls that parents should not feel obliged to organize the holidays according to his wishes. “When that’s not possible, you have to explain it, and if he gets frustrated, that’s part of the education too. “
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Whatever the option, the holidays are always a moment of freedom to discover and experience. And meet again. “It is a time inhabited by an imaginary of reunion and return to the sources, notes anthropologist Jean-Didier Urbain. But if they make it possible to re-establish family links, they can also be a springboard for young people.towards more autonomy ”. A first step, in short, before the “supervised” holidays with friends, then the getaway in total autonomy. But not before 17-18 years, advise psychologists.
Departures on vacation
64% of 5-19 year oldswent on vacation at least once in 2019. In detail: 52% of children whose parents have low incomes, against 81% in the wealthiest categories. Children living in the Paris region are leaving more.
78% of children left with their parents and 19%, without them, with friends.
31% took advantage of at least one collective stay. Among them, we find 40% of children whose parents have low incomes and 38% have high incomes, but also more Parisians (42%), adolescents aged 14 to 16 (42%), and mostly boys. (56%).
Source: Crédoc, May 2020.
Testimonials – Each family has its own solution
► “They appreciate being with us because they also go to summer camp”
Laurence, mother of three children aged 8, 16 and 18
“My teenagers have never refused to go on family vacations. On the contrary, they have always been asking. Even the oldest is still happy to spend three weeks with us before going to join her friends. They like it because they know that they are also doing things on their own. Since they were little, they have gone to summer camp for two weeks every year, often abroad. And like me at their age, they love it. When they are with us, we make sure to find friends who have children of the same age. And when we make trips abroad, we plan fun stages to compensate for the absence of friends. “
► “Places where there is a bit of atmosphere but not the holiday club”
Corinne, mother of two teenagers aged 15 and 19
“My children spend half the vacation with me and the other half with their father. Since they were teenagers, I try to organize the stays taking into account the needs of each one. We choose together places where they can do activities and where there is a little atmosphere nearby, but not the vacation club either. They need to have fun, but it’s also important that I can rest and take walks or cultural visits. Before leaving, we set some rules, such as doing certain activities together and participating in races. However, I let them sleep in the morning. The rest of the time, the elder leaves with friends to a family home in the village of his paternal grandparents. And the youngest is doing sports training. “
► “Holidays with couples of friends”
Vania and Laurence, two friends, mothers of two 16-year-old boys
Laurence: “Since my son was a teenager, we go with Vania’s family and another couple of friends on vacation. For the boys, it’s royal because they get together and, for us parents, there is less pressure when it comes to organization. Last year, the three of them went to summer camp for the first time with one of their friends. After confinement, they needed to be able to get some fresh air and regain a little sociability. The colo is a good compromise when they are too young to go alone and too “old” to stay with their parents. The rest of the time, we try to mix reunion with family or friends and return home where the video game takes back its rights! “
Vania: “Until last year, my son refused to go to summer camp, and we said to ourselves that he would accept if he went with friends. It was important that he did not stay a whole month in Paris, especially after confinement, and that he could have a first experience of a sports camp where video games are put aside. It was also good that he met other teens than his friends. Since we no longer have a country house, vacation management has become more complicated. This year, he will go camping for the first time with friends, without the parents. This is a new step. “