It’s that time of the year again when many of us are planning to head off on a sunshine-infused holiday. Family holidays are usually one of those longed-for events that seem on a pedestal of pleasure – with memories of sun, sea and smiles. But – the reality is often quite different. For many, family holidays can be more like sun, sea and stress!
We all have really high expectations for our family holidays, particularly if they have taken a lot of planning and saving. With these high expectations comes a much longer way to fall! Often the age of the children is a big factor. Toddlers can battle to acclimatise to changes in their routines, weather and surroundings. Teenagers will get bored and sulky – particularly if Wi-Fi is an issue where you’re staying.
Add to this the UK’s blended and vertical families where a ‘family holiday’ can now involve a 3G tier (grandparents, parents and children) that brings with it a whole new set of dynamics and potential stressors.
Statistically, the average family in the UK spends just one hour a day in each other’s company*. And then you choose to go on holiday and 'blissfully' spend 24 hours a day together? But, no matter when the statistics say – we all still long for that time together, so here are some tips for your family holiday:-
- There is no problem with being bored. Don’t try to fill every moment or provide entertainment for your children continually. This just adds to their sense of entitlement. Empower them to be creative, come up with their own ideas to keep themselves busy. Short bursts of this will give them fantastic life skills!
- Don’t expect too much! Have one or two firm goals in mind (e.g.: have an afternoon nap; read a book) and then anything else is a bonus. Don’t plan for 3 highlights a day or ‘perfect’ times – you’re just building yourself and your family up for disappointment.
- Lead by example. If you want your kids to stay off devices – you must too! Don’t check emails all day or post constantly on social media. Play a board game, do a pool aerobics class, hire bicycles for a family bike ride, go for a walk, read a book. Show alternatives and model how to destress to your children.
- Be adaptable and flexible. Holidays often don’t go as planned. Don’t let it create stress. Plan for some unexpected events and turn them into an adventure or a fantastic learning opportunity. If it’s beyond your control (flight cancelled, wrong room booked) there’s no point in letting it stress you and ruin the holiday. No one will remember the room in 6 months’ time, but they may remember how they felt about how you reacted!
- Keep a sense of humour. There’s almost nothing that can’t be managed with a smile and a bit of humour. Keep talking and laughing no matter the ‘disaster’ and you’ll be amazed at how much better the situation feels and how much better you cope with it.
- Plan ahead. Hold a family conference and get everyone on board with the tricky stuff about the holiday before you go. Make sure everyone’s clear on rules and regs (e.g. spending money, bedtime etc). This is especially important if you’re holidaying with another family who may parent in a different way. Avoid conflict and situations but having this agreed on before you go (esp. with teenagers).
And remember – it’s a holiday after all. So - have fun, relax the rules a bit and take home the most important thing of all – memories of time together and connecting as a family.
* Lola Borg (Telegraph article)