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Michelle Gottlieb Psy.D., MFT, LPCC
Individual, Couple and Family Therapy
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Surviving Family Vacations

July 2007

I am planning my family vacation right now. It is delightful that my kids are old enough now that I do not need to find ways to entertain them. They are quite adept at doing that themselves. But I can remember the long road trips with small children where the pain of the getting there seemed to outweigh the relaxation of the vacation itself.

We have all seen the movies with the families singing all the way to the campgrounds. This works, for a while anyway. Then the kids are tired of singing, or they want to sing songs that the parents don’t know, or the parents want to sing songs that the kids don’t know. So we switch to telling stories, jokes, riddles, 20 Questions, the license plategame, eating, anything that will keep the kids happy and not whining for another 15 minutes. These days many of us have DVDs in our cars. This can be a life-saver, literally. Those movies can give you 90 minutes of peace, but then it all starts all over again.

So, what is the solution? Stop taking road trips with your children? While certainly tempting, I do not believe that is the best answer. Those vacation road trips are important memories that will be treasured when our children grow up. It does create closeness within the family. Actually, all the things listed above are good suggestions. But one of things that I still do is that I have each child pack a bag for the car. This can be filled with books, toys, movies, etc. It is their choice; however as the mom I do get the right of veto. Nothing that makes loud noises or anything that the only purpose is to annoy your sibling.

Another practice I started many years ago is bag under my seat that the children do not see until someone starts to get antsy. Out come things that I have picked up at various places in the weeks before the trip. It might be ad-libs. It might be a book on tape. It might be a new game. The fun and surprise of that bag can brighten up a dark mood! Please do not forget food for the trip. It is good for everyone, including the driver. But limit the sugary treats. The last thing that you need is an antsy kid on sugar!

The most important thing is to let go of expectations fed by Hollywood. Most of the trip can be fun. Some of it will be horrible. Make sure that the good outweighs the bad!

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