Put your phone away, let go and release your inner child on your next family getaway, writes ANGELA SAURINE
There’s no denying that day-to-day life can be stressful. The pressure of work deadlines, piles of laundry, mowing lawns and getting the kids to school, soccer training and playdates can mean there’s not a lot of quality time left for family. Going away on a holiday provides a great opportunity to recalibrate. But how do you ensure that you make the most of this precious time you have together?
1. Involve children from the beginning
Getting children involved from the planning stage is a great place to start, according to anthropologist Dr Sumant (Monty) Badami. “The process starts from the moment you start to fantasise and visualise the holiday,” he says. “Making it inclusive is a great way to make them feel engaged and build excitement.” Obviously, you can’t just do everything they want to do on the trip, so it’s important to find a balance. “You will find that kids will be more willing to do stuff that you want to do if it’s a reciprocal relationship,” Dr Badami says. “You need to be the bigger person and do what they want to do first. Also recognise that they might not give a crap about cultural experiences; what they care about is time with you.”
2. Be playful
Once you are there, it’s important to stop, let go and enjoy yourself. “Take the opportunity to experiment with different parts of yourself,” Dr Badami says. “Let go for a little bit, be a bit more playful. Embracing your inner child is important. We learn about each other and about ourselves through play. Being on holidays is about connecting in the here and now and not focusing on outcomes and achievements. Get out of your routine. Allow the kids to see your human side.”
3. Share stories
Another way to connect is by sharing stories about when you went on similar holidays when you were a child – whether it’s a camping trip, snow holiday or a beach break. “If you’re going on holidays with other families that’s even better because kids will listen to stories of other kids’ parents, and they will listen to your stories,” Dr Badami says. “I’m big on building rituals like sitting around the fire or reflecting on something that you were really grateful for or something that you loved at the end of the day.”
4. Put down the device
And, of course, it’s important to minimise time on phones and video games to connect in person. “We need to have the integrity to hold ourselves accountable, because we can’t really expect our kids to have that integrity if we aren’t prepared to show it,” Dr Badami says. “You can be realistic and say if everyone in their family has their devices with them let’s only use them during certain times.” And don’t worry if the holiday isn’t perfect – focus on the fact that you are together.
5. Create positive memories
Playing board games and making sandcastles are amongst the greatest holiday memories for Australians, according to research commissioned by holiday rental company Stayz. It found 70 per cent of Australians believe that playing with kids helps to create stronger bonds and memories. Psychologist and parenting expert Michael Carr-Gregg says finding time and places to engage in play on holidays helps create positive memories and early brain development and bonds families together. “Nothing lights up the human brain like three-dimensional play with loved ones,” he says. “Not only does play relieve stress, improve brain function and enhance creativity but it also improves our relationships and our connections to other people. Play is what helps us feel young and energetic throughout our entire lifespan.”
6. Fun for all
Nearly half of all Australians find it hard to plan a holiday that the whole family will find fun, according to research by Carnival Cruise Line. The most fun holiday is a tropical holiday in a warm destination, according to nearly a third of survey respondents. This was followed by a cultural holiday with days planned out and full of sightseeing (20 per cent), and a holiday to reunite and reconnect with family and friends (16 per cent). “What family members want to do on a holiday can vary,” clinical psychologist Jaimie Bloch says. “For example, one of the kids’ values might be adventure, or it could be relaxation or bonding.” She says it’s important to think of ways each family member can fill their cup.
7. One-on-one time is important
Families may feel like they need to do everything together on a holiday, but just like in everyday life they can split up and do different things, coming back together at mealtimes. “We know that kids really value one on one time when they’re not having to compete with a mobile, smart device or a another child,” Bloch says. “It can just be a small thing. Fifteen or 20 minutes is often long enough. It’s good for their self-esteem and feeling more connected and bonded to a parent. The more you do things like that, the greater the connection you will have. When they feel connected and heard they’re going to be more likely to follow through on instructions and be more manageable,” she says.