The thing that makes holidays most enjoyable for children is that, usually, their parents are more relaxed, fun to be around and emotionally open. Often, a child’s favourite summer memory involves something free and simple like laying and watching the stars with family, not a trip to Disneyland.
These are the simple pleasures that shape fond childhood memories. Unfortunately, holidays can also be stressful, and it can be very easy for parents to struggle to relax and enjoy themselves. Here are 5 suggestions for parents to maximise the joy and minimise the stress.
1. Always give children plenty of warning about your plans
Before you head out, it’s a good idea to run the kids through what will happen each day. You don’t have to do anything too fancy – a few print-outs on loose-leaf paper could work, or a selection of pamphlets that teach them about each activity and location. Kids might like to look at the material independently and even draw on them, helping to build anticipation. Also, seeing pictures or videos of relatives you will be visiting can help warm them up to seeing them in person.
2. Coach your kids with some basic social behaviours
You can role play specific good behaviours in the car, or make a game of it all before you depart. Manners matter, and it’s important to practice them. Here are a few questions you could address:
‘In hotel corridors, we never run and we talk quietly. Why do you think this is important?’
‘What do you say if you don’t like the dinner that’s served?’
‘What do you say when you want to leave the table?’
What do you do if the cousins start to argue?’
3. Try to maintain normal routines for your kids as much as possible
Children enjoy the security of a familiar routine. They become stressed when unfamiliar events are happening, and chaos can be very disconcerting. Do your best to keep everything on routine, including everything from mealtimes to bedtimes. Be prepared to be patient when they get overstimulated or become irritable.
4. Only plan one event per day
One of the things to avoid is having to race around before you leave, stressing over a busy trip with lots of meltdowns, and returning home more exhausted than when you left. Children tend to become grumpy when travel and schedule changes take place, so if you plan to do less it’s likely you’ll enjoy yourself more.
5. Games in the car
Any road trip can quickly become a nightmare if you fail to keep the kids occupied. Playing games can be a good way to stimulate their minds and even tire them out before you arrive at your destination. A good example is the licence plate game – everyone has their own version. Make yours more engaging by keeping bingo-style scorecards for the kids to mark off numbers as they go past – this can make the game stay fresh for hours.
There are sometimes other things that prevent you from relaxing on holiday, like family tensions and logistical pressures. You should always have strategies to restore your own peace when something knocks you off balance. The suggestions in this article will help manage disrupted routines, travelling and the ups and downs that come with excitement and disappointment, and there are plenty more out there. Whenever you are travelling, and wherever you are going, these suggestions are designed to help everyone (especially you) get the best possible experience from your holiday. Family holidays don’t have to make relaxation impossible, but it will require a bit of extra planning to make everything go off without a hitch.