It’s that time of year! Facebook and Instagram are overloaded with pics of adorable tan children frolicking in the surf or digging in the sand. Vacations are supposed to be a wonderful respite from “real life,” but are often surprisingly stressful and rife with opportunity for meltdowns (in the kids too!). As parents, we envision a peaceful scene of children digging sandcastles while we sip a fruity beverage reading the newest “summer bestseller.” In reality, we often have sand kicked in our face as the kids race by, fighting over the “cool sand bucket,” their shrieks of rage fighting for attention over the seagulls’ calls. Sigh. What does a parent do? How do we pack up the classic “No Wimpy Parenting” tools and bring them along on vacay?
- Lower your expectations: Tell yourself (and your spouse), “This is not going to be perfect. Problems will occur. We will expect some tough times and deal with them as they come.” Eradicating the idea of a “perfect” vacation goes a long way in establishing the proper mindset before the van even backs out of the driveway.
- Pack the discipline along with the sunscreen: Make sure your kids and teens understand that MOST of the basic rules at home are still enforced on vacation. Emphasize that the common consequences/punishments at home are also likely possibilities, even in wonder-land. This means if a teen is being surly and rude to parents, and she’s been warned to change that ‘tude and refuses, she can lose her phone. Fighting children can be put in time-out on a beach chair. Whining and ungrateful children can lose “sweets and treats.” (Ask my kids – it’s no fun to sit out while the rest of the family is happily licking ice cream cones on the boardwalk).
- Remember the essentials of sleep and diet: Yes, we all slack off and eat too much greasy food and ice cream on vacation. Of course, kids tend to stay up late watching movies or playing putt-putt. But remember, most of us (adults included) get cranky and irritable if our sleep deficit becomes too great, or if our diets are completely out of control. Aim for moderation and having some semblance of structure for bedtime and healthy eating, even while you’re away.
- Don’t over-do it! Coming from a Type A, adventure-loving mom, I tend to want to pack in A LOT of activities, sight-seeing, and adventures on every day of vacation. However, children (and some husbands it turns out) need built in down-time and time to relax. If you have been racing from activity to activity all day, every day, you can’t be too upset or surprised when your children’s behavior and attitudes take a drastic decline. Build in a balance of fun activities and rest.
Your kids and teens will appreciate having some boundaries and “normal” routines on vacation. Trust me. Now, grab your sunglasses, your “Koozie”-covered drink, and set up in your beach chair (maybe about 5 or 10 feet away from the sandcastle building zone)!