Watch out Washington DC, here we come!
This summer, I was asked to speak about my work with suicidal, self-harming adolescents at the annual convention for psychologists. Every summer, the American Psychological Association (APA) organizes a convention and asks many of us to present on our current research in order to inform other clinicians and researchers about new breakthroughs in our area of specialty.
I wear several “hats” at my day job, and one of those hats is investigating (and this is a very general description) how therapists can best help adolescents who struggle with suicidal urges and self-injury (to learn about adolescent self injury CLICK HERE).
I really like this part of my job and I was excited to share my work with my colleagues at the 2014 APA annual convention.
Modern Family Vacation
So when I was asked to speak, I decided that it would be a good opportunity to bring the whole Modern Family to DC and have a little family vacation. While Jeff, Keith, and I have been to DC before (as a matter of a fact, the guys have been there TONS of times), this was the kids’ first time.
I’m so happy that I presented at APA on the first day of the trip. That way, I didn’t have to worry about the presentation the rest of the trip. My whole Modern Family came with me to my presentation and it meant a lot to have them there. I was also honored that many of my students and psychology friends came to see me present as well!
After my presentation, we tried to go to all of the “must see” destinations in DC so the kids could get a good overview of this historic city. We saw the Smithsonian, the White House, Arlington, Washington Monument (NOT called the National Monument – I don’t why I had that name associated with that monument), Lincoln Memorial, etc.
We also tried to put a little silly in the trip and went on a Duck Boat Tour. A duck boat (apparently) is a WWII type of vehicle that is both a car AND a boat! The duck boat drove us around DC so we could see all of the important sites and then it drove right into the Potomac River (where it transformed into a boat) so we could sail around and see those sites (but there’s nothing to see on the Potomac River – which was a little disappointing).
The tour guide definitely made the trip memorable – his humor was hilarious and he tried to pull a U-turn in front of a cycling race and made the duck boat die in the process. As he was trying to get the motor to turn over, 2 motorcycle cops drove up to our land/sea vehicle and yelled at him to hurry up. The cyclists actually had to stop to wait for our duck boat to get out of the street. So fun – I highly recommend it!
Another Opportunity to Bond as a Family
What I liked most about the trip, though, was the time spent together as a family. It was nice to laugh with each other, talk about interesting subjects, and just hang out with each other.
Now that the kids are 16 and 13, I am reminded that opportunities like this trip will start becoming more rare as they continue to get older. My goal is to go on several trips a year with the kids before they both graduate from high school.
Opportunity For Parents To Help Shape Their Child’s Worldview
I believe that family vacations like this one are magical because not only are families able to take time out of their busy lives to bond over an exciting shared experience, but it also provides the right atmosphere for parents to share their personal values, passions, and beliefs with their kids in a real-world kind of a way.
Alternatively, it creates a conducive environment for parents to LISTEN to their child’s developing passions, values, and beliefs so that discussions can happen regarding similarities and/or differences between your child’s beliefs and your own.
Remember, your child might have a different point of view from you, but this does not mean that they are “bad” kids or “stupid” kids. It simply means that they are in the process of figuring life out on their own.
Also, be prepared for your child’s worldview to change from time to time – that’s natural. Childhood, especially the teenage years and the early 20’s, is a time period of intense growth for our kids because their brains are developing at an astronomical pace, academic learning is usually more intense around this time, and brand new life experiences are beginning to kick in.
If you discover that your child does share some views that you disagree with, try not to overreact – try to make this a teaching experience for your child. I have included some tips to help guide you in talking with your child about their controversial views.
- Try not to act mad, sad, or shocked. Showing your displeasure might actually cause your child to cling to these beliefs even more.
- If you see glaring holes in your child’s logic, try asking leading questions and let them discover the error of their logic on their own. Socratic questioning is a great technique to help your child reach conclusions on their own, while appearing as though you trust your child to come to the conclusion on their own.
- Have multiple conversations with your child – don’t expect that your child will change their minds in just one sitting.
- Patience! Patience! Patience! Sometimes it is developmentally appropriate for kids to “try out” new passions, values, and/or beliefs that are a little weird (i.e. wanting purple hair, being passionate about One Direction, or being vegetarian for a week), so save the intense lectures for the important stuff (i.e. not wanting to go to school, underage drinking, etc.).
Take Home Message
I am so grateful that my work served as an excuse to go on another family adventure. I am also very happy that it served as a way for my kids (and Jeff and Keith, I guess) to see first hand what I do at work. It was really rewarding for my family to see me interact with my colleagues and to see me in a professional setting.
I remember going on a similar trip with my dad when I was maybe 11 or 12. That year, dad served as the President of Rotary Club in our hometown and he took my mom, my sister, and I to the annual convention in Philadelphia. I just remember thinking that the convention was such a big deal and that my dad must be a big deal too if he was asked to be a part of a huge convention.
I remember just being so proud of him and I hope that my kids came back from Washington DC with a similar memory.
As always, I would love to hear about your family trip. What memories do you remember from your adventure with your family? Was is chaotic like a family tv sitcom or did it serve as a needed bonding experience with your family? I would love to hear all about it in the comment section below.