Everybody Melts Sometimes: Dealing with a Young Adventurer Losing it on the Trail

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Adventuring with your littles is one of the greatest joys of parenthood. Whether you are hiking, backpacking, skiing or bike riding, watching your young adventurer grow and develop over the years is magical.

But that magic can come at a price. In spite of the picture-perfect stories on social media most kids will, at some point, melt down on an adventure. Knowing how to defuse the situation and help your child recover is critical to having an enjoyable trip and one that they will remember positively.Pout it out. Let your young adventurer have some space.

At 10 years old the meltdown might take the form of, “I miss Mom!” You might hear pleas to cut the three-day trip back to two days so you can get home.

Best response: Distraction. Dinner, hot chocolate, and whittling or a stunning view from a mountain top with boulders to scramble on.

Young adventurer takes a break.

At 12 years old, “This is too hard!” Instead of a day trip from camp, she might ask to stay at the tent and lounge at the lake.

Best response: Promises of glory. Pictures help. Blue skies, wild blueberries and a turquoise lake help more.

Young adventurer finds a turquoise lake.

At 14 years the meltdown is often silent. Disappointment in her abilities and pain from 30 miles on the trail.

Best response: Patience. A teenager can rationalize and can get down on themselves. Providing space for them to work through their problems is what they need. And sometimes a nap. Never underestimate the value of 15 minutes snoozing in the sun along the trail.

Some young adventurers need cat naps.

At 40-something meltdowns are quiet and hidden. They manifest as frustration and questions about whether this adventure was really a good idea.

Best response: The long view. Remember that adventures with your kids are limited. They’ll be grown and having their own adventures before you know it.

Meltdowns are inevitable even when they are hard to spot. Devise the responses that are the most effective for your family and then get out on the trail. These meltdowns are just a small part of your trips. Handle them well and they’ll just be another great memory for years to come.


Check out more from the Soltys family archive:

What’s holding you back from backpacking with your kids?

Six Things You Might Not Know About Hiking Cannon Beach

About John Soltys & Family

John Soltys & Family

John is a father, husband, adventurer, and (good guy) hacker and insists the order of those titles is important. He and his family (wife Amy; three kids Clara, Lillian, and Henry; and dog Treen) live in the mountains east of Seattle where they are surrounded by nature and have easy access to both the wet and dry sides of Washington. John spends 100 days a year adventuring, half of that with the family. The kids are now at an age where they can tackle serious terrain and carry their own gear. Hiking, mountaineering, backpacking, snowshoeing and fly fishing just got a lot more adventurous. John writes at moosefish.com and spends his days reducing IT security risk in Seattle.