We all know the dream of wonderful vacations, relaxing with the family and everyone getting along peacefully.
In my experience, however, it often does not unfold the way we would like. There are several mistakes that contribute to this problem, but they can be easily corrected if you understand them.
The bad news is that it is tough to recover from these critical mistakes if you’re in the middle of a vacation. So, the good news is that you can simply make some adjustments before you go on vacation to ensure a joyful and pleasant family experience.
Mistake Number 1: Working too hard for your children’s happiness.
This might sound a bit unusual, but it’s a common mistake. We all want to be supportive of our children’s happiness and want a wonderful vacation experience for everyone. However, this mistake occurs whenever you feel yourself working harder for their happiness than they are!
When your children are experiencing moments of boredom or moments when things don’t work out exactly the way they want, you’ll find that it is a disservice to continually “rescue” them from that moment. You would like for them to be happy, given all that they have, but sometimes they can’t seem to find it.
So, instead of saving them, redirecting them or always rushing to solve their unhappiness, allow them to have a moment of whining or complaining or boredom. Allow them to be unhappy with the fact that their friends can’t come along or that their phone won’t text or that they have to sit through their sister’s favorite ride at the park.
If you allow your children to work their way through any moments of whining or frustration this summer, you will quickly see them become better at finding their own peace and cope better with disappointments. This is an emotional muscle they must develop!
Mistake Number 2: Believing that abandoning structure and routine during vacation will equal a more pleasant experience.
This simply is not true. Your kids are used to structure and routine and the basics need to remain in place. We all thrive on structure, but this is particularly true for children.
So here’s what I suggest you consider: In advance, set the basic guidelines for the summer schedule, including times when you go on vacation. Schedule when you’ll get up and have breakfast, and roughly when you’ll leave to go to whatever activities you have planned out in advance, while leaving some room for error. The goal is not rigidity; the goal is predictability.
When your children know what will be happening next, there is a sense of security and reassurance that calms and organizes their thinking and their behavior.
Overall, stick to your planned schedule. You can be open to input and some flexibility, but make sure it does not flow from your intolerance of a whining child or the desire to save them from their moment of misery.
Mistake Number 3: Getting weak on consequences and long on negotiation.
We all want a pleasant and enjoyable experience while on a vacation. As such, we can often get weak on our follow-through. Your kids will learn to honor the limits that you set on their behavior; not by the lectures and discussions that you offer them, but by the consequences that come as a result of their failure to honor that limit.
Let’s imagine that you’re traveling in the car and the boys are bickering in the back seat. You can remind them of their limits. You can threaten them. You can yell at them. And you just notice that it keeps getting worse and worse as the trip goes on.
What’s needed is a clear consequence….not another lecture or discussion. Let the boys know that whenever they start bickering, you’ll just pull the car over and sit there until there’s five minutes of silence. If you’re clear about where the limit is at, and what the consequence is for their bickering, you’ll find they quickly learn to honor that limit. The same approach can be used wherever you travel. This is an amazingly simple strategy that works everytime!
So to enjoy your family vacation, make sure that you don’t try to rescue your kids every time that they have a moment of unhappiness or disappointment. Establish a structure in advance and stick to it. Finally, be firm on your limits, and teach those limits with consequences. Don’t get into negotiations or you’ll just find yourself negotiating more and more unhappiness on your vacation.
Dr. Randy Cale offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. For more information visit www.TerrificParenting.com.