MomsOnMonday: Prep for Parenting Your Modern Family

Posted on April 28th, 2014, 0 Comments

Modern Family: Season 5, Episode 20, Australia

An Upside Down Family Trip

The Framework
In tonight’s opening scene Luke is upside down in a handstand, exclaiming: We’re in Australia. It’s on the bottom of the globe. So everybody but me is upside down.

His parents fill in the details.
Phil: I came from the Land Down Under. I was conceived on my parents’ honeymoon. It was on a blanket in the park. And I still have that blanket.
Claire: Phil’s mom left us money for a trip there. When the rest of the family found out, they just jumped onboard.

But once they reach Sydney, the family quickly splits into factions.

Claire and Jay come up with one excuse after another to sneak-away to work on winning a bid for a big job. Claire is especially intent on winning. As Jay puts it: Claire has an incredible work ethic. She’s like a Young Me … Young Me was an accountant from Korea. Died at her desk.

Mitch and Cam also keep contriving reasons to ditch the family. It seems that back in the day they knew this guy who now lives in Sydney. He was kind of annoying then, but now he’s a big-time talk show host here. Needless to say, the perks that come with his celebrity status are a magnet for Mitch and Cam who quickly become hangers-on.

Meanwhile Phil is on a spiritual journey to embrace his native land – with a reckless abandon that leaves him with swollen lips, a body mutilated by jellyfish stings, and a hard punch in the face from a kangaroo. As Gloria, the adult accompanying him, laments: I don’t know how I’m going to keep Phil safe anymore. I think he’s going to die here.

With the adults acting like children, the kids are pretty much left on their own. Luke and Manny takeoff for a topless beach and on the way back join a random group of men who invite them to go on a walkabout. Alex fixates on finding the words to turn the trip into a worldly experience worthy of a college essay. And Haley keeps an eye on Lily all the while having her sights set on finding a hottie worth keeping. As Haley explains: This country’s number one export is hot surfers. I’m not going to buy the first one I see. I’m still browsing.

Flipping the Frame: My Notes
Although we didn’t see evidence of this tonight until the very end of the episode, family trips to new places can strengthen our connection to our teens.

This happens in part because exploring a place we’ve never been puts our teens and us on a more level playing field. This doesn’t mean we get to abandon our roles as the adults did tonight. We’ve still got to be the parents, but we may find ourselves dependent on our teens for a change. A kid with a good sense of direction may be the first to figure out the subway system. Or an outgoing kid may be the one who asks a stranger for directions.

Phil: This place was really special to my mom. She actually left me a list of things she thought we should do: visit the Great Barrier Reef, see the bush, and climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge. You guys are with me – right?
The others: No… Not doing that… You know how I feel about heights…

Tonight on Modern Family’s upside down trip the foot dragging came mostly from the adults. But in real life it’s typically the teens who drag their feet when it comes to family trips. They worry about leaving their friends and what they’ll miss out on. And, to be honest, they probably have their doubts about what it’ll be like to spend days on end with just their family.

What’s a Mom to Do?
Don’t take your teen’s foot dragging personally. Chalk it up to the worries and doubts that are a part of doing almost anything new. And then before they really dig in their heels, put some plans in place that will help get things off on the right foot.

Here are some tips to help get everyone onboard for your next family trip.

Give everybody a say. Don’t dictate the agenda. As Phil learned tonight, it’s hard to get everybody onboard that way. And forget trying to negotiate to build consensus. Instead let everybody be in-charge of choosing one family activity. Only three rules apply here:
– It has to be an activity that everybody can do safely.
– It can’t be a budget buster.
– And everybody has to enthusiastically participate.

Give them some space. Don’t get quarters so tight that there’s no room for privacy or pack the schedule so full that there’s no free time. This is especially important if you’re traveling with a kid like Alex.

Build in a way to say “yes.” Things like parasailing, zip lining, and jet skiing are teen magnets. But they can blow the budget big time. Instead of nixing everything on their “I want to…” list, build in a way to let them decide: Give your teen a set amount to spend on the trip, and let them keep any money leftover.

Set a no-texting time zone. If you try to ban texting for the entire trip (what you’d really like to do), your teen is likely to rebel. But if you compromise by setting times when they can and when they can’t text, chances are they’ll go along with the plan. Initially, they may still complain. But eventually they may get so involved in the fun, that they’ll forget they’re disconnected.

Bend the regular rules. Your teen will still need some guidelines and some watching. (For proof look no further than Manny and Luke’s decisions tonight.) But take a break from the normal routine: Like letting them have dessert first or order a dessert that’s bigger than dinner. Allowing them to stay up late sometimes and sleep in the following mornings. Closing the door on their unmade beds.

Let them bring a friend. Not on every trip you take as a family. And maybe not for the whole time. But every now and then letting your teen invite a friend can mean more fun for them and a little more relaxation for you.

Your Parenting Experiences
Traveling as a family takes us out of the normal routine, letting us see qualities in our kids that the normal routine keeps us from seeing. What have you discovered about your kids while on a family trip?

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