While my child-related Comic Con expertise lies in the little kid stuff, today’s guest blogger Emily Parker from The6Parkers is taking up the challenge of bringing teenagers to a convention. From group cosplay to just getting them to put down their phones, Emily dishes out a little advice based on her daily experience of raising four kids who are no strangers to the geeky side of life.
*Emily sent this post to me before the pandemic hit, when people were still making plans and we were optimistic the convention would still be held. Since pretty much everything for the rest of the year has been cancelled, I decided to go ahead and run it instead of waiting a year!
This year, we are going to MegaCon! The kids and I haven’t gone to a convention as a group in several years. Last time that we went, they were kids. I mean, as opposed to teenagers and tweeners. It’s going to be a whole different con this time.
When they were little, they didn’t really have strong opinions on the costume themes. We would say something like “Hey! We’re going to be Batman villains! William, do you want to be the Joker?” William would excitedly agree and we would make it happen. But now, they have their own individual opinions. It’s so inconvenient! 🤣 When they were little, going to conventions was like Halloween. Now they have other interests. They don’t necessarily like the same things and celebrating fandom as a family is not necessarily high on their radar of cool stuff.
My Own Personal Teenager Challenges:
-My 11-year-old defiantly rebels against superhero stuff because the rest of us like it.
-My 13-year-old would rather play the X-box than leave the house.
-My 17-year-old. I don’t even know how to summarize him. His opinion changes daily.
-And my 21-year-old. Well, he moved out and I can’t drag him on trips anymore.
There are obviously similarities in the convention experience with older kids and younger kids, but one big difference is that there is not always a lot for this in-between group to do. When they were small, they had access to LEGO tables, vendors practically threw toys at them, and the people in costumes felt real to them. So the big question is: How do you make comic cons fun for the whole family when bringing teens and almost-teens?
Tips to Survive a Comic Con with Your Teen
Choose a Simple Cosplay
A huge challenge is costumes. Particularly if I want to continue my goal of group cosplays which is like, my FAVORITE thing in the world. But since our interests don’t completely match anymore, I have to stay aware of the fact that they are potentially humoring me. So I have to humor them too!
The good news for me is that the three littles (ok, not-so-littles) have recently gotten interested in Doctor Who again. And the other good news is that the Doctor and her companions all wear regular clothes. Because if you have kids who aren’t sure if they are into putting on a costume, asking for them to put on an unusual coat as opposed to tights and a mask might not seem as big of a deal to them.
Take Teen-Friendly Breaks
Going to a convention all day can be exhausting. Granted, in a good way. But while I know that my husband could go all day, I’m not sure that the same could be said for the kids. And if I’m honest, I’m not sure that my stamina is what it used to be. (But we’re not talking about me, people!) Anyway, I’m trying to accept the fact that their passion may not be as strong as ours, so I plan to make a point of taking breaks. Maybe break out in the middle of the day and spend some time at the hotel pool, or go eat at a teenage friendly restaurant. And, although it pains me, maybe even bring that dang X-box along so my son can get his Minecraft fix.
Don’t Forget the Snacks
This is actually advice that I will take for myself, too. If your kids are anything like my 13-year-old, you’re gonna want to keep that blood sugar level up! Even something as unhealthy as a Honey Bun is better than nothing. Because a sugar rush is better than no rush. So, a snack stash is important and having a place to put that stash might be something to keep in mind when planning the costumes. Pockets are helpful!
Find Convention Activities Aimed at Teens
Research the convention schedule before attending so you can find something for your teen to do besides just wander around. Many conventions have activities, workshop and shows that are included in the ticket price, though sometimes there is an added fee. You can find things like model painting, Jedi training or even wrestling shows to attend.
The Bottom Line
Remember that it is their trip too. No one wants to be forced into something, including kids. Even though my kids sometimes have less than delicate methods of communicating their feelings, that doesn’t make their feelings any less valid. I guess when it comes down to it, it’s not all that different than traveling to conventions (or anywhere, really) with little kids.
Rolling with the punches is key. The specific challenges are definitely different. I no longer have to worry about where to find a changing table or make sure that they hold my hands. (But it sure would be awesome if they would!) Instead I have to worry about if I can drag my son out of bed without major drama or if my daughter will ever take off her dang headphones. Either way, like any family, you have to take care of each other and accept each other. And maybe bring your own stash of wine for later!