Updated: Jun 16
Life is busy and full of distractions. It is easy to become disconnected from your loved ones without realizing it due to the demands and stress of daily living. Taking some time away can work as a reset button to reconnect and refocus. Many families spend time and money on a vacation without being intentional about connecting. They fall into their typical behavior patterns while away - staring at the television or phones.
Tips for Success:
Plan ahead. It is absolutely frustrating to try to wing it and nothing works out. The tours you intended to take are booked, indecision takes over, or you simply don't know what is available to do at your destination. Taking time to make reservations or map out your schedule will reduce stress and irritability.
Make sure everyone gets something they like. Think of ways to cater the vacation to make it special for each person in the family. If it ends up being all about one person, the other family members will feel like they are missing out.
Keep everybody busy and engaged. If they get bored, they will want to go back to their old habits. Having plenty of ideas and activities available will help reduce the risk of tuning out the family. The goal is for family engagement, not checking out the whole time.
Make expectations known ahead of time. Are you aiming for device free? Do you expect certain times during the day for each person to remain engaged and other times to check out? Clear communication about expectations will help. Children (and spouses!) can be very resistant to letting go of their habits unless you are offering something more interesting.
Consider the personalities of each family member. Outgoing people will usually desire to hit the town, go into stores and restaurants, and engage with others. Introverts will likely need some alone time each day to recharge. They will typically prefer quiet, peaceful settings.
Related Post: The Balancing Act - Avoiding Extremes in Parenting
Activities that Will Promote Connection:
Go on a scavenger hunt. Whether you are at the beach, the mountains, or somewhere in between, scavenger hunts are usually really fun. There are tons of printable options for all sorts of settings and age ranges. This would be a fun way to get out and work together as a family on a common goal. You might also consider a city scavenger hunt. They provide a challenge and you can get the most out of your vacation by learning the ins and outs of the city you are in.
Make meal. time a family bonding experience. Bring in each family member to work on an aspect of meal preparation. Older kids can peel vegetables while younger kids mix the ingredients. Simple things like this can lead to lasting memories.
Create art. This could be as simple as using paper and markers to allow each person to draw a picture of a meaningful memory from the day or you could do a family painting. You could make a sculpture or memento from things you found on your scavenger hunt. The goal is to create memories together and have something to keep to remember the highlights of your time together.
Storytelling. Remember when people would gather around the campfire and tell stories? Many of you won't remember it, as it is part of our culture that is quickly fading away. Storytelling is such a precious, powerful part of society. It allows the older generation to pour into the younger generation, telling family stories, folklore, and sharing values and beliefs. Whether it happens around a campfire or sitting in a living room, it can be a meaningful and powerful time together.
Play some games. Games encourage communication, interaction, and responsiveness to one another. If relationships are strained, avoid competitive games and look toward cooperation games. Cooperative games are won when the entire group works together towards the same goal. Here is a review of several cooperative board games. Another option would be doing an escape room challenge. There are many options you can print for free.
Connection with young children will look a little different than what you would choose to do with older kids. Typically you would want to sit on the floor and engage in play. Allow your child to lead and note is chosen to play with. Laughing and playing together can help your child feel important and valued.
Connecting with older kids typically involves showing interest in what they enjoy doing as well as bringing them into your world. It involves talking about basic, everyday things as well as going deeper into hopes, dreams, triggers, and needs. Playing games, doing activities together, and simply being there.
If your children are teens or even grown it is not too late to invest in connection. It is a day-by-day, step-by-step process. Connection happens when your child feels valued, wanted, and supported. Sometimes it is best to focus on showing unconditional love rather than focusing on behavior issues and expectations. Once the connection is made, it is much easier to manage behavior and your child will be more motivated to please you.
Photo by Yulianto Poitier: https://www.pexels.com/photo/woman-and-three-children-playing-water-1231365/