Welcome to summer, time of vacations and summer flings!  I was on vacation in Florida with friends (hence, no post for a stupidly long time).  I ended up talking with the three other adults who I went with about our experiences as teenagers on vacation.  Our experiences ran the gamut – from flings on every vacation to no flings on any of the vacations.  In addition to these retrospectives, there were also plenty of teenagers to sit back and watch in their flings – or lack thereof – on the beach.

From our conversations and watching the young folk on the beach, it’s clear that many young people do have flings during their vacations.  It might be that some of the young people who do not have flings wish they did, but there are plenty more who never even think twice about the prospect.  Vacations for these young people are exclusively family-focused affairs.

Vacation flings can range from more emotional connection and no physical connection to an exclusively sexual experience.  They can last a weekend, or a week, or several weeks.  Some of them are remembered and some are forgotten.

But what’s the point of these little affairs?  Are they essentially good or harmful for teenagers?  Should parents encourage them or discourage them?

As I have mentioned before, teenagers are in a place where they are discovering who they are, who they want to be, and how much choice they really have in the matter.  To go through this process, most teenagers need to experience themselves in a variety of situations and acting in a variety of ways.  It’s a healthy thing for them to date around and learn what kind of a partner they want to have.

Vacations often offer a safe place to experiment.  The relationship is generally, by circumstance, limited in length.  If the match is not a beneficial one, the parents (and the teenager) can take solace in it ending shortly.  The teenager can experience a different side, a different personality, a different kind of relationship, with a firm expiration date attached.  If the teenager likes this new sense of self, it can be brought back home, but if the teenager does not like the new sense of self, it can be discarded and left behind.  Very convenient, no?

There are, of course, potential downsides to vacation flings.  As with all attachments, hurt feelings, broken hearts, and poor choices, as well as the occasional, and more dramatic, unplanned pregnancies and STDs are always a possibility.

But most often, vacation flings are learning experiences.  Parental awareness and involvement (within limits) can enhance the experience for the parents and reduce the potential for problems for the young person.  So as with any person their teenager is interested in, parents should get to know a vacation fling, invite them along for dinner for example, as well as giving the two times to be alone on the beach or at the pool or on a hike.

Hopefully I will manage to get back to my computer before another two and a half weeks are up, but I make no promises on how regular posting will be until my kids return to school in late August!