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Tips For Vacationing With Kids

intentional parenting parenting tips Jul 06, 2022
Tips For Vacationing With Kids

It’s summer and vacation time!  How are you envisioning your family vacation? I don’t know about you, but I always had visions of fun family times together with happy and grateful kids.  Unfortunately, my dreams of vacation never matched my reality.  As the vacation went on, my kids fell apart, and I couldn’t wait for it to end.

I was coaching a mom recently whose family had gone on vacation with the family of one of her good friends who she doesn’t see often.  On day four, her almost-four-year-old son had an incident that culminated in his hitting her friend’s young daughter.  The mom was embarrassed and frustrated.

I started by explaining how her son’s brain is developing, and how his prefrontal cortex determines his ability to manage his emotions and control himself.  At age four, this part of a child’s brain is very much under construction, which is why their behavior can be very inconsistent.  

The other fact about the prefrontal cortex that is helpful for parents to understand is that it takes tremendous energy for kids to continuously keep that part of their brain engaged to control themselves and their actions.  So when kids are on vacation and off their routines — staying up later, and eating more treats — it makes sense why they struggle to control themselves and behave.  It’s not that they don’t want to, it’s that they physiologically can’t keep that part of their brain online.

So when I asked the mom at what point in the vacation had her son hit her good friend’s little girl, it was no surprise when she responded that it was towards the end.  She also confirmed that they had been staying up later and eating differently than they did at home.

As parents, what can we do to prepare for a vacation with our kids?

The first (and most important) thing that you can do to prepare for vacation with your kids is to set your expectations accordingly.  Know up front that your natural instinct may be to think about everything that you are doing for your kids to give them a good vacation, which can make you resentful when they don’t behave.  But if you start the vacation knowing that your kids will be off their regular routines — and that they are likely to struggle at times to behave as a result — when it does happen you’ll be less likely to get frustrated, and more effective in your parenting.

The second thing you can do to prepare for vacation with your kids is to plan downtime around busy times.  If you’re on a vacation where you’re trying to see and do as much as possible in your time there, try to be strategic knowing that your kids will tire both as the day and days go on.

If you know that you have something planned in the evening, plan to have some quiet or rest time in the afternoon.  Or if you have a jam-packed day, don’t make that the night with the dinner reservations where you expect your kids to be on their best behavior.  

The final tip to vacationing with kids is to watch your kids for signs that they’re hitting their limits, and be flexible.   When kids get overtired and overstimulated, their behavior can be frustrating and unpredictable.  Be willing to cancel or reschedule plans so they can have a good meal and a nap or early bedtime — otherwise, you will be trying to get them to behave at a time when they just can’t and you will all be miserable.

With a little pre-planning both on activities and your expectations, your vacation can go much more smoothly!

Did you know that there are simple parenting strategies that can make parenting so much easier?  The problem is that they are completely opposite to our natural parenting instincts so most parents don’t know about them or struggle to use them.  That’s why working with a Parent Coach can change your entire parent experience, and change your relationship with your kids.  Visit melpeirce.com to learn more about my coaching and the different ways you can work with me. 

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