Have you planned your summer family vacation yet?
Choosing a getaway that pleases every family member can be quite a challenge, especially if your children’s ages are scattered.
Here’s the simple truth: You will never please everyone all of the time. Every leader must understand this fact. It’s no different in parenting.
So when you cannot please every family member, what’s the best way to plan a vacation? Perhaps these ideas will cut down on conflict:
Pre-Vacation: Hold a Family Meeting
This meeting can serve several purposes:
- If you haven’t picked a place, offer the kids 3-5 ideas and let them vote.
- If you’ve already chosen a destination or once one is chosen, let each family member suggest an activity that he or she would like to do while on vacation. Don’t end the meeting until each person has offered a reasonable, affordable idea.
- Assign every family member a specific pre-vacation chore, like checking that all the lights are out or closing the blinds, or arranging for a neighbor to walk the dog.
- Instruct kids on what they need to pack and a few days before leaving, set up suitcases and let them begin packing. If you want, give final approval before the suitcases are zipped.
- Discuss Expectations
With three kids and numerous family outings, I’ve learned that most conflicts are rooted in one thing: unmet expectations.
This was very clearly seen in our recent family weekend at Disneyworld. My oldest, a 26-year-old kindergarten teacher, absolutely LOVES everything Disney. She wanted to be the first one at the park and didn’t want to leave until after 10 pm fireworks. The rest of us–23-year-old son, 20-year-old daughter, husband and I–are not so enamored with Disney and were ready to leave earlier in the evening, way before fireworks.
We won, of course, because she was out numbered. But she was not happy, barely saying a word on the way home.
I knew right then and there that the next time we attempted a family trip or outing, we needed to discuss expectations and come to an agreement before we left to do the activity. So when we did a family outing to Universal Studios a few weeks ago, one of the first things we did was discuss what we all wanted to do and how long we planned to stay.
I’m not saying that we had a conflict-free day, but it definitely cut down on anger and crushed expectations because each one of us already had an idea of what to expect.
- Enforce Compromise
Every family member must understand that learning to compromise is key to keeping peace. And when compromise means one person giving up something he or she really wants, be sure that your family members take turns at giving in. It should not always be the youngest, quietest, or most compassionate making the concession.
- The Best Thing about Family Vacations
If you are feeling stressed about this summer’s vacation, remember this: If nothing else, these experiences are creating memories and cementing family bonds.
After we returned from our Universal Studios weekend, my youngest wrote my husband and I a note thanking us, and she said something that highlights one of the reasons we even attempt a family vacation: “Thank you for the great family dynamic you have made.”
That dynamic is made through lots of shared experiences, some of them good, some of them great, and some of them pretty awful. Those times together, plus love, forgiveness, and honest communication provide the ingredients for a strong family bond.
So, no stresses about your next family vacation, whether everyone agrees or not. No matter how it turns out–whether it’s a blast or a bust–you have an opportunity to continue working on a great family dynamic!
Janis B. Meredith, sports mom and coach’s wife, writes a sports parenting blog called JBM Thinks and is the author of the Sports Parenting Survival Guide Series. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter