It is that time of year – the school calendar has ended and the summer holiday season is about to start. Many are those who like to plan a summer holiday, knowing the benefits of spending time together as a family. However, although we believe that a family holiday is exactly what we need after a hectic year, experiencing it may not always be as plain sailing.
So, before we even start to fantasise about giving our family the best holiday of their lives, we need to set our expectations straight. As much as we may love being with our family, let us not underestimate the effect of being with them 24/7 for a number of consecutive days, with little, or no, space for time-out. When at home, you may be spending a couple of hours a day together as a whole family – it can be quite something when you find yourself spending all day long with the same people whom you love dearly. So, expect arguments, expect moments when you want to get away from them all and expect things not to go according to plan. It is part of the holiday package. By doing so, not only will you be saving yourself the anxiety of wanting things to go according to plan, but you will be also teaching your kids that things do not have to be perfect to be fun, and that when things go wrong, which they will, you will be able to laugh at yourselves and at life.
A family holiday needs to involve the whole family. Gather the family around and discuss with them your ideas for the family holiday and invite them to share their own. The more involved they are, the more ownership they will have and the more they will cooperate. Although you are doing this as a family, keep in mind that you do not have to do everything together all the time, and neither does everyone have to do everything. This may be especially be more relevant if the ages of the family members vary. It is important that each member chooses, at least, one thing they want to do or place they want to visit. Do not forget to include what you – as the parent – want to do as well. You may wish to have an evening for yourself as a couple, so factor finding a reputable childminding service in your planning. Involving your children in planning your holiday allows them to learn how to vocalise their wishes, to make choices and to respect others’ preferences, especially when these may be different to their own (Gram, 2007).
Packing for a holiday may also be quite stressful, but if done well in advance and in a thought-out manner, it could also have its benefits. Packing for a holiday is the official launch of the holiday – that’s when the excitement starts kicking in – so let this be part of the fun. Let children have their own travel bag, with their name on it. This teaches them responsibility. Then give them instructions of what they can bring with them – for instance, one book, one toy and their favourite outfit – teaching them boundaries.
When on holiday, you may assign holiday roles to the different family members. For instance, younger children may be assigned the responsibility of finding the nearest ice-cream parlour on the smartphone app, while older kids or teenagers may be responsible for shooting the holiday family video.
While family holidays may cause us some stress, the greatest benefit is togetherness. Being together as a family strengthens our family identity, allows us to celebrate together and creates the opportunity for us to reconnect (Mcdaniel, 1999). So in the midst of the chaos that my pursue during a family holiday, do not forget to be grateful for all your family members and amongst all the pictures that you will surely end up taking, make sure you take a mental family photo of the people you love the most and allow that to be imprinted in your heart for ever.
Gram, M. (2007) Children as co-decision makers in the family? The Case of Family Holidays. Young Consumers. Vol 8(1), pp. 19-28
Mcdaniel, S.G. (1999) ‘It’s bedlam in this house!’ Investigating subjective experiences of family communication during holiday celebrations. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol. 59
Stephanie Caruana is a counsellor at Willingness. She offers counselling services to adolescents and adults experiencing some form of distress. She can be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org call us on 79291817.