Aah, the thrill of family vacations! Everyone piles in the car, bus or plane for a fun-filled week of togetherness and Hollywood happily-ever after endings, right? Maybe not. Too often, these trips are fraught with struggles that you’d like to avoid but don’t know how.
Collaboration and consistency the keys for a ‘no-drama’ holiday week. When you work with your kids to include their ideas for the travel experience and the vacation activities, they more eagerly buy into the holiday plans and help you make them a success. When you stick with your agreements and follow through on them, they’ll feel more secure and cooperate to make the trip run more smoothly.
Here are some sure-fire tips for a great holiday week:
- Before your start the trip, meet together as a family and review the itinerary. Kids with ADHD like to know what’s coming down the pike because it helps them prepare for transitions and adjust their expectations. Go over the scheduled activities, talk about any possibilities and make a list of what people would like to do. Discuss the difference between “have-to” events and “want to” options. Add one desired activity from each person to the vacation plan.
- Consider your child’s capacity for self-entertainment while you’re in transit. Be realistic about what your child or teen can actually tolerate in terms of travel. Budget enough bathroom and body breaks. Create a do-able list of acceptable games and activities. Bring the supplies you need and throw in a few surprises to keep your kids on their toes. If you are using technology as entertainment, I encourage you to save it for the later part of the trip when the other activities have lost their appeal.
- Create a strategy (in advance) of issues and behavior that trigger folks so you are prepared if they happen. By planning for these potential upsets, you can rely on similar past incidents to give you strategies for responding more effectively if they occur on this trip. This way, you'll have the tools you need to deal with such challenges successfully. Make sure you also talk with your family about how you can slow things down when temperatures rise and tempers start flaring.
- Decide how much technology your kids can have, when and where. Clearly explain the limits around technology before you leave. If you want to use technology for rewards or relaxation time, make sure you outline the conditions when these will occur. If you decide to give them bonus screen time, name it as such and talk about why. It's no fun to spend your vacation negotiating tech time so set the boundaries before you go.
- Stay positive. A sense of humor is your best traveling companion on family trips. Don't sweat the small stuff. If your son is fresh to you, say "Fresh is for vegetables not car rides." If your kids are yelling at each other and you can't hear yourself think, put on one of your favorite tunes, roll down the window and sing out loud. They'll be distracted and complain about the cold. Try to see the silver lining. A bad traffic jam may be the perfect time to break out the secret snack and delight everyone.
May you travel safely, have fun with family and friends and enjoy the warmth of this holiday season!