How to Have the Perfect Family Vacation

It's all about your expectations.

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The perfect family vacation. Is there such a thing? You plan and plan, and then you plan some more.  All the details are worked out.  What could go wrong?  

Lots, actually, especially when you are tied to an ideal vision of what this vacation will look like. Parents have shared how disappointed they’ve been with their long-awaited vacation.  A great deal of it revolved around the children:     

– The kids fought every day.
    – Why couldn’t they behave better? It’s only for a week.
    – You’d think they’d be grateful for such a wonderful break.
    – My son picked on my daughter and she took the bait every time.
    – I was the referee.  I took the bait every time, too.
    – There was always someone in a snit about something. It ruined the day for everyone. 

Here’s the bottom line:  your children are who they are.  They can’t turn it off and on because you’ve changed locations.  For the other 358 days of the year, they are who they are.  Why should these seven days be any different? This is about your hopes and sometimes unreasonable expectations.  The word ‘perfect’ will take you down, every time. 

Do you have hot buttons?  Topics, attitudes and tones of voice that set you off?  Do you take the bait and then wonder where it all went wrong?  That goes double for your kids, who have less awareness of their feelings and triggers, and lack the ability to self-regulate. If you’re hoping they will become angelic, appreciative children because you’re on vacation, think again.  

 There will be activities, people and times of day that bring out the best in them.  On the inevitable flip side, some things will bring out their worst. 

Having the perfect family vacation means accepting that there will be less-than-perfect moments.

Accept that this will happen.  When you are planning your ‘perfect family vacation’, accept that there will be ‘moments’.  Just acknowledging to yourself that this can happen, and that it’s normal, will take some of the pressure off of everyone.  You will be less disappointed, too, if you can roll with it when it happens. 

When you see that negative energy ramping up, know that it’s temporary.  How would it feel to watch the squabbling play out and think, “It’s okay. This is just a moment in time, not the whole vacation.”   

Find the calm. Someone has to stay calm and be the grownup.  If you jump into the ring, ready to enter the fray, you add to the chaos and get more of what you don’t want.  Sometimes you’ll have to intervene, and sometimes the kids will have to work it out themselves. Either way, your frustration has no place there. 

Let go of the ideal.  Accept your children for who they are and the tension will ease.  The way it plays out will make it the perfect family vacation.  Enjoy it all.

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