How to Instil Teen Street Smarts When Travelling

Learning to be independent is part of growing up. Though it's not easy to relax the rules and push back the boundaries as your child grows, giving them appropriate levels of independence will help them become confident and well-adjusted adults.

It's widely recognised that a generation of tweens and teens lost their natural independence evolution due to the pandemic and its long tail, but there are simple ways parents can help their fledgling adults spread their wings and learn to fly.

Street smarts - or practical intelligence - are the kind of life lessons you learn from experience. They don't come in a book and people pick up these skills at different times. It's important for your teen to learn how to navigate and travel through their local environment and how to speak to new people when they need to, while keeping themselves safe.

Show Them How and Get Them to Lead

This tip is great for tweens who are building their confidence before travelling solo. When you travel, talk about what you're doing and get them to take an active role in getting from a to b. 

  • Explain how to navigate using maps, signposts and departure boards. 
  • Encourage them to listen to tannoy announcements. 
  • If multiple buses come to the same stop, how do you make sure you're getting on the right one? 

Once you've done this a few times, make a trip together where your teen takes the lead. You'll still be there to ensure you don't take the wrong street/bus/train, but they are the one making the decisions.

It's widely recognised that a generation of tweens and teens lost their natural independence evolution due to the pandemic and its long tail, but there are simple ways parents can help their fledgling adults spread their wings and learn 

  • A fun way to evolve this is a 'mystery-tour' or 'getting lost' day. If you're living in or visiting a new city, get them to take the lead navigating their way round without any agenda. Apps such as Citymapper can be really helpful for this activity and a useful back up to be familiar with if they ever really do get lost.

Help Them to Plan Their Journey

If your teen is going somewhere new, help them plan the journey beforehand. 

  • Which modes of transport will they get, and which way do they go once they get there? 
  • Consider whether you might need to explain platform direction or different destination branches.
  • How will they stay safe and what will they do if they sense risk - for example finding themselves isolated in a carriage? 

Being prepared means they are less likely to get lost or come to harm.

Adapt When Things Go Wrong

If plans do go awry, how can your teen get back on track? Getting on the wrong train or bus can sometimes be as simple as getting off at the next stop and travelling back the opposite way. Getting lost means re-tracing your steps and perhaps asking for help. Teens will learn from the way you react if things go wrong.

  • Discuss what they would do if they get on the wrong bus or train - their plan A, B and C. 
  • Consider whether they have a secret place in their school bag or coat to hold emergency money - in case they lose their phone or travel pass. 

Speaking to the Right Strangers

Your teen should know where to get help or directions if they need it. Along with police, they could approach transport staff or pop into a shop, library or café to ask staff for directions. It's always safer to go into a busy place, rather than approaching an individual on the street.

  • Depending on where they are - train, bus, street, shopping mall etc, - ensure your teen knows who they can go to for help.

Be Mindful of Personal Belongings

Being aware of your personal belongings helps to prevent muggings and opportunist pickpockets. 

  • Teach your teen to keep phones, keys and wallets in front pockets or in inside jacket pockets - never the back pocket. 
  • If your teen carries a bag, make sure valuables are tucked inside and the bag worn to the front of their body. The outer compartment on a backpack, for example, is far too easy for others to reach into.

Learn Important Phone Numbers Off by Heart

Most teens know their own phone numbers, but do they know yours? If their phone is ever lost or stolen, knowing a few numbers by heart means they can contact you from a different phone.

  • ICE - In Case of Emergency - As your teen starts to explore the world, ensure their ICE numbers are up to date - just in case. 

Be Aware of the Surroundings

If your teen is using their phone while walking along, it's likely they won't be paying attention to the roads or surrounds, which can put them in danger - either of having an accident or making them a target for pickpockets. 

  • While out and about, having their phone or other tech such as earphones on display makes them a target for theft, so to help keep them safe, emphasise the importance of keeping tech out of sight.
  • Encourage them to keep their phone, or other distractions, away until they get to their destination.