Teens at home for a whole week during the March break can be a daunting thought for parents. With March break around the corner, this time should be a welcome respite for children and parents alike. Make this an opportunity to have a “staycation” or a vacation right in your own locale.

To avoid being cooped up in the house and spending hours on their computers and tech toys, why not ask the teenagers to give their own suggestions of activities that interest them? You might be surprised that they actually learned from all your years of planning the trips for them. It also avoids having your suggestions being called lame and corny.

Make a wish list where anything goes. (This is the part where the whiteboard comes in handy!) Welcome all ideas and save the analyzing for later. Then discuss as a family and narrow down the choices to those that all or majority will enjoy. The choices can be determined by many factors. Ask questions like:  Is it a family-friendly activity? Will there be a long wait time? Is the cost within our budget? Is it operational during this time? When is the best time or day to do this activity?

Here are some activities that came out as teen approved.

See a Movie. Even if you have a 50” television at home, it is still fun to watch in a cinema. Agree on the movie beforehand and check to make sure it is age appropriate. It is always fun to watch as a family but sometimes there is a need to split into smaller groups to make everyone happy. One group watches the action movie and the other group goes for the animation film. Include a budget for the drinks and popcorn to complete the experience. Teen always enjoy munchies and snacks. It is good to know that some movie theatres charge less on Tuesdays. You may want to avail of this better deal or avoid this day as there will be more moviegoers.

Go to an Exhibit. With a little research, you can find out what exhibits are in your local museum that teens are interested in. In Toronto, the TIFF Bell Lightbox has a Tim Burton Exhibit ongoing until April 2011. He is the creative genius behind many films like Nightmare before Christmas, Corpse Bride, and James and the Giant Peach. For the younger teens and tweens, they might want to head over to the Bata Shoe Museum which now displays a pair of Justin Bieber’s shoes. Another tip: the Toronto Public Library offers free use of the Museum and Arts Pass (MAP) during March break and summer vacation. Check out the details at http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/museum-arts-passes/   

 Try out a new restaurant. The restaurant does not have to be newly-opened but a place that none of you have tried before. Be daring and order something new and unknown. Having a meal together can be a great way to catch up on news about your teen’s activities and making plans for your next family vacation.

Go Bowling. Visit your local bowling alley and maybe invite some other families for a little friendly competition. Change your routine and bowl at night to experience the lit up bowling lanes. This is a great way to get some exercise as well and lose the extra pounds from the chips and fries that you are bound to eat there.

Work on a Home Improvement Project. This does not cover just any home improvement project. You should choose a project that directly benefits your teenager like building a new wardrobe, creating a gaming area or giving them their own room. Your teenagers will get involved if it is for them. Keep the project simple and delegate short and simple tasks. Add some energy by playing their favourite music and taking short breaks. Record your work progress in pictures by taking before and after shots. This may be a way for moms to get some chores done on the sly. But be prepared for possible mess as these are teenagers, what do you expect?

 Have a Relax Day. Teenagers and parents do need their rest. Set a day aside to wake up late, lounge in your pajamas and stay home. Just have light and easy to prepare meals or have a pizza delivered. If you have teenage girls, it may be fun to create your own spa and try facial masks and maybe a foot spa if you own those portable ones. Dad will probably enjoy being pampered too. An afternoon nap might be a good idea and your teenagers might not feel too old to jump into your bed in a tangle of arms and legs. Another quiet activity would be to have everyone curl up with a good book and a bowl of snacks on the side.

Whatever you decide to do during the March break, it is always better to discuss with all members of your family. Listening to everyone’s opinions and suggestions does open up new avenues of fun. It can be a learning process for all. We as parents realize that our teenage children are growing up and starting to make their own choices. In turn, they are more reasonable and can understand why some things are not possible or affordable to do at a certain time.  Sometimes the activities we used to enjoy when they were younger are no longer fun because they have outgrown them. And some things that we could not do when they were younger are now possible because they have grown and matured.  

Try not to stress about having fun and being busy the whole time. And if plans do not always turn out as expected, don’t get upset. Look at the humour in the situation and laugh it off. One day it may even make for a great bonfire story with your grandchildren.

Family vacations whether away from home, or right at home, are always best when they are remembered for the good times shared together.