What if you could prevent those summertime arguments and struggles and meltdowns that bring chaos and frustration to your family during those cherished vacation weeks?
You can prevent those moments that cause you to consider packing up and coming home early by taking action now. 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 easily make some adjustments before you go on vacation, to ensure a joyful and pleasant family experience. Let’s review each joy-robbing mistake, and then I will discuss what you can do to preserve your peaceful vacation.
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. This is a given.
However, this mistake occurs whenever you feel yourself working harder than your children are at their happiness. You can determine this very simply by turning to your heart and noticing when you feel yourself doing more and more to try to create happy moments. And yet, your children seem to become more and more easily disappointed and upset. In fact, you may notice that they put little effort into their own happiness as you work harder.. If this is where you’re at…you are headed down a path that will ultimately fail them and you..and make both summer and vacation a possible nightmare.
When your children are experiencing moments of boredom, or moments when things didn’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. Allow them to be unhappy with the fact that their friends cant’ come over, or that their favorite ride at the park is closed, or that you have to leave early because of his sister’s sunburn.
If you engage the complaints, you validate them. So minimize this, and let your children work their way through any repeated patterns of whining, or unhappy moments this summer. You will quickly see them become better at finding their own peace, and cope better with disappointments.
Mistake Number 2: Believing that less structure and routine during vacation will equal a more pleasant experience.
This simply isn’t true. Your kids are used to structure and routine. They thrive on structure. While they may complain or resist it at times, the research overwhelmingly supports the value of continued structure and routine
So here’s what I suggest you consider: In advance, set the basic guidelines for the summer schedule, including times when you vacation or go on family outings. Know when you’ll get up and have breakfast, and roughly when you’ll leave to go to whatever activities. Try to have the activities roughly planned out in advance, while leaving some room for error. The goal is not rigidity; the goal is predictability. Please note that! 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. While you can leave some room for flexibility, make sure that it’s not an accommodation in response to a whining or complaining child. You can be open to input, and some flexibility, but make sure it does not flow from your intolerance of a whining or complaining child.
Mistake Number 3: Getting weak on consequences and long on negotiation.
When on vacation or embarking on a family outing, we all want a pleasant and enjoyable experience. 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. 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 or yelling, 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 hitting, bickering or yelling or screaming in the car, 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 ever time!
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.