How can parents keep tabs while still letting their kids have fun? Here are some tips I give to parents when their kids are traveling with other teens or away from home:
1) Set Check In Times
With the recent disappearances and kids being in foreign locations with people who want to take advantage of a bunch of rowdy, drunk, unaware, wealthy, teens (true or not) is a big concern. Having set, pre-agreed check in times, like calling everyday at 4pm Cancun time, is a good way to make sure they are ok. Maybe this is an email, text message or phone call, but it keeps them a little accountable and you do not have to sit around worrying and waiting for them to call.
2) Make it easy for them to check in.
The biggest excuses are:
-“I didn’t have reception” So tell them they can make hotel phone calls and you will pay for that portion of the bill (sneaky way to see the bill and what was charged) -”My phone doesn’t work there” Get a pre-paid calling card and send them with it. -”There is no Internet on the ship/Mexico/friends house” It is worth your time to research online where the nearest Internet cafe is and offer to pay for them to send you one email a day.
3) Send them with numbers.
Your teen will hate this, but they do not have to tell their friends. Research ahead of time the local hospital numbers, emergency number, police, doctor, embassy, CAB SERVICE and any friends you have in the area. Put the numbers on a little card and they can keep it in the bottom of their suitcase. They probably (hopefully) will never use it, but if and when they get in a bad situation–they will be so happy they have that card in the bottom of their bag.
4) Know who they are going with and talk to their parents
Make sure you know who else is going and talk to their parents. When parents all work together to find out little bits of information, there is not much we can hide…and again if anything goes wrong it is good to have other numbers to call.
5) Check out their pre-plans
More specifically, make sure they have plans. Teens have this horrible habit of saying, “we will find a room when we get there!” or “we will get a rental car somewhere near the airport.” This inevitably leads to disaster. Make sure you have a basic itinerary and they have aspects like where they are staying, how they are getting places and how they are getting home all planned out.
6) Make them have a place for important documents
This is not an obvious one but so important! Get a group of teens together and someone is going to lose their drivers license on the beach, leave their passport at the airport, misplace their airline tickets or spill on their hotel reservation confirmation. Get them a little folder and make a place WITH THEM BEFORE THEY LEAVE where they will put all of their important documents. I cannot tell you how many times friends have had to buy new tickets/fly home without a license/get a new passport because of careless accidents. Do not let it happen to your kid.
7) Mention Experimentation
You might want to mention that laws in foreign countries or away from home could be different when it comes to alcohol and drugs—maybe better, and maybe worse. Teens do not usually think about taking drugs and having a bad experience, like having a friend get alcohol poisoning, having an allergic reaction to a drug or drink or getting roofied. These situations become ten times worse when you are away from home.
8) Let them have fun
Do encourage them to have lots of fun. If you are one big ball of worries, you will push them further away from you and they will probably not show you any pictures when they get home (even the appropriate ones) if you nag them the whole time. Hopefully, you have some faith, so show them you really want to trust them!