Camping is a family activity, and even though it can be a lot of fun, it can be stressful, too, especially if somebody is unhappy or resentful. Teenagers can be, well, teenagers, so it’s important to keep your budding adult in mind as you make plans to go camping – and make some special considerations and allowances. You can all have a wonderful time and strengthen the bond you share as a family.

Ask them to help with planning. Ask your teen to help research places to go. Give a boundary, such as “within the state.” Inviting them to help decide where to go gets them more invested in the trip. Once the destination is established, ask for their assistance again to figure out activities to do on the way there and during your time at the campground. Teens love playing and working on their phones, so use this to your benefit by enlisting their help, including using camping apps to help in their research. Tell them that they need to pick one thing outside of their comfort zone that they need to try. There should be something new and exciting and maybe even a little frightening to look forward to, but each trip should produce some new experience and not just the same old-same old of previous camping trips with the family.

Establish expectations. Just like at home, there are expectations while camping. Chores, personal safety, personal conduct, phone use. Discuss all of those expectations prior to leaving for your camping trip so that there are no surprises, which also minimizes disagreements. It’s up to every parent to establish what those expectations are – and they may deviate from what your teen is used to. That’s okay. The important thing is to make things clear ahead of time.

Choose a spot with activities that will appeal to your teen. Location is everything! Choose a campground that has a feature or two your teen would enjoy doing. Perhaps it’s a campground near a lake and they really enjoy swimming or paddleboarding. Many private campgrounds, such as those managed by our members, have a plethora of amenities such as swimming pools, game rooms, and a country store. Likewise, they host events and activities including movie nights and crafts. Maybe there’s a state or national park nearby that offers guided hikes with a twist, such as a lantern lit night hike or a stargazing expedition.

Allow them to bring a friend along. Another teen? Yes! It could be the simple solution to make everyone happy. Your son or daughter will have a good buddy around, and you’ll have a happy teen. Ask which friend could come along and don’t be afraid to say no if you feel the combination will be more trouble than help. Teenagers are social creatures and miss their friends. Allowing your teen to bring a friend along will get them off their phones and also help them strengthen their friendship with shared experiences.

Live and learn. Camping will generate opportunities for teens to learn – sometimes, the hard way. You can recommend packing certain clothing and gear, and if your teen refuses or forgets and ends up needing it, a valuable lesson will be learned. With each camping expedition, your teen will learn and understand how and what to pack for spending time outdoors – and will be more responsible in packing those items.

Food, food, food. This tops the list of reasons why teens feel more compelled to go along camping in the first place. Special treats, snacks, and meals – things that they don’t get often at home – make the camping experience even more memorable and appealing. Ask your teen for suggestions as you get the grocery list together. Be prepared to give leeway and let them indulge in that Mountain Dew or giant bag of beef jerky. At the campsite, select a meal or two that are more personalized and hands on, such as walking tacos. This gives your teen the chance to make something the way they like it best.

Give them space. Teens like to hibernate from time to time. Set up a hammock across camp where they can retreat, and give them space to be on their own inside the camper if needed. Sleeping spaces may need to be shared with other siblings, but try to carve out an area of their own if you can – even if that means bringing an extra tent to set up at the campsite for them to use as their own room. This option entails a certain level of trust. You know your teen best.

Splurge a little bit. Camping is a relatively low-cost activity, hence its appeal for a lot of families. But your teen will likely have interests that are different than your own. They may have a more adventurous streak and want to try new things. Whether it’s a high ropes course, a simulator at a museum, or floating down a river, be ready and willing to splurge a little bit on activities your teen wants to try or would enjoy. If your teen is more of a bookworm or scientist, visit a local museum that appeals to his or her interests.

Teach life skills. There are a lot of things that can be learned by going camping, from the ordinary such as cooking over a campfire to life skills such as managing navigation while on the trail. Use the time to teach your teen these skills so that they can be more confident, more proficient individuals.

Let the campfire work its magic. Staring at a campfire is a completely different experience than staring at a television screen. Campfires connect us to the ancestral parts of our human heritage, and they have always been a way for people to bond as a group. You may find that simply sitting quietly around a fire with your teen brings out deep thoughts and conversations – their dreams, their worries, their thoughts on the future, memories of times past. It may simply allow you to be together in contented silence. You can play games by the fire or look up at the stars or tell stories.

For older teens, don’t always make them the babysitter. Having an older teen around when you also have little ones can lead you to rely on your teen to act as the in-house babysitter. Remember, it’s their vacation, too, and even though it’s fair to ask them to help out and keep an eye on the littles while you take care of something, they don’t want to be stuck in this role. Leave plenty of opportunity for your teen to be independent, do their own thing, and chill out. You can also relinquish your role as food prepper, daypack organizer, etc., and pass along the job to your teen instead. They may balk at first about “doing something,” but they can contribute in a meaningful way to the operation of the campsite and the preparation of activities – and it gets them off babysitting duty.

Relax and have fun. You’re out of your normal environment. Not only is it a chance for everyone to take a break from the typical stresses of everyday life – and emotions associated with them – relax and unwind. Teens will appreciate, even if they don’t say as much, the change of scenery and the change of pace just as much as you. This change can be beneficial in how you and your teen interact with each other as well as strengthen the bond you already share.