What Will You Do On Your Summer Vacation? (page 2)
One of the blessings of summer is family vacation. And one of the curses of summer is family vacation.
Most of us remember them well. The endless car trips whose highlights seemed to be the fights with siblings over who got to sit in the best seat and the ongoing chants of, "Are we there yet?" The tug of war over who would get to do their favorite thing first. The long, boring hours endured while our parents visited antique shops or stopped to visit their friends who happened to live along the vacation route.
Of course we have good memories, too. But when we recall our own experiences as children we cannot be surprised when the National Longitudinal Study on Adolescent Health (known as Add Health) reported after surveying more than 90,000 youth that one of the risk factors for emotional distress among 7th and 8th graders is parent/adolescent activities. Anyone who has parented a 7th or 8th grader understands that even though parental presence at home is a protective factor, simply being seen in public with a parent causes many adolescents distress.
In addition, Add Health overwhelmingly found adolescents at any age were protected from engaging in unhealthy risk behaviors by parent/child connectedness. Rather than having to do with attending events or doing activities together, connectedness is a gauge of the parent/child relationship. Indeed, IYD's focus groups with adolescents consistently found that youth want to spend more time with their parents, get to know them better, share experiences, or just talk.
One of the biggest challenges for parents is to navigate the seeming contradictions within our adolescents over if, when, and how they really want to interact with parents.
So while it might be challenging, it is both a worthwhile and achievable goal to make the family summer vacation into an opportunity to strengthen family connectedness. Consider the following thoughts in planning a successful, fulfilling vacation:
Rarely do families spend as much time in such close proximity for as long a period as they do on vacation. This can be a natural formula for tension. Recognizing this and planning "alone time" for each family member will help diffuse building stress.
Trying to pack too many activities into a single day or even a single week can also be a formula for tension and stress. Fatigue based on too many hours in the car, airplane, or even the amusement park contributes to short tempers and unhappiness.
While vacations are a family event, they are also times for each individual family member to focus uniquely on personal interests. Parents should ensure that each member has "their turn," understanding that family members' needs and desires for rest and relaxation will differ. In this regard it is also important for dads and kids to remember that it is mom's vacation, too. She often finds herself doing the same chores on "vacation" that she does daily at home.
Vacation is something both parents and children have planned for and anticipated. Each family member has personal dreams and expectations of what it will be like. Those dreams and expectations are often ideal and more wonderful than any vacation could fulfill. There is bound to be some sense of anti-climax or disappointment if (maybe we should say "when") things don't go exactly as planned. Although parents may feel some of this, understand that children will, too.
"Mommy, I'm bored," is another common theme-not just on vacation. Kids may miss seeing their favorite TV shows or interaction with their friends, creating this feeling of boredom. Simply the change of pace from the daily routine may feel like boredom to children, yet this very change can offer opportunities for new and creative activities. Planning ahead with group activities as well as those suited to individual family member's preferences is important.
Remember that parents set the tone. Parents who lose their tempers over unexpected delays, become irritable due to long traveling hours, complain about accommodations or food that don't meet standards, and speak unkindly or sharply to other family members, should expect that children will follow their example.
Plan a vacation within the budget so money isn't constantly discussed, and decisions aren't made daily about what activities are affordable. · Parents who don't regularly spend time with their children (or who are workaholics) should not expect immediate acceptance as one of their kids' "buddies" just because they are together 100 percent of the time during vacation.
Before departing for vacation talk as a family about the atmosphere and attitude that will enhance the trip: patience, flexibility, fun, courtesy, and a sense of humor. And as parents, exhibit these consistently.
Don't Over Emphasize Your Vacations
Obviously, the vast majority of life is not spent on vacation, yet many of us emphasize the importance of our vacations so much that we forget to enjoy the rest of our lives, our day-to-day, moment-to-moment experiences. We plan and look forward to our vacations, sometimes as if they were the only part of life worth really living. We build up our expectations that our time off is going to be the highlight of our year, a saving grace that will make up for all the hassle and disappointment of our daily lives. We think to ourselves, "Boy, life is going to be great once we get there."
There are several problems with this over emphasis on vacation. First, vacation represents a tiny percentage of our overall lives. . . .Instead of being fully engaged in the here and now, and discovering joy in daily living, your focus is on how much better things will be and how much more fun you'll be having later — instead of now.
Another problem with extremely high expectations is that, in many instances, they are unrealistic, which can lead to a great deal of disappointment . . . .I'm not suggesting that there's anything wrong with vacations or that looking forward to them is a mistake. I'm also aware that many vacations, including a vast majority of my own, are wonderful. What I'm attempting to alert you to is the common problem of making a bigger deal out of your vacations than is really necessary, of over-emphasizing how great somewhere else is going to be instead of remembering how special and terrific your life is right where you are.
Reprinted with the permission of the Institute for Youth Development. © 2005 Institute for Youth Development.
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