School’s out, sun’s out. This can only mean one thing: Summer’s here and it’s time to have some fun! Research tells us that having fun is one of the most meaningful aspects of family vacations for children. It’s important to make the most of vacations since summer only lasts a few months. It may seem kind of silly to think about needing to be intentional about having fun on a family vacation. Shouldn’t fun happen naturally? Unfortunately, there are plenty of things that can get in the way of your family’s opportunities to have fun, such as:
Spending too much time plugged in (phone, social media, video games, Netflix, etc) distracts you from in-person connections.
Lingering conflict, anger, or hurt feelings with family members get in the way of positive connections.
Limiting beliefs or expectations
Believing things like “It takes a lot of money to be able to do really fun things as a family,” or “Our family is just too serious to have much fun.”
Rushing from one place/activity to the next puts too much pressure on everyone and there’s not enough time for relaxing/spontaneity.
Lack of mindfulness
Fun moments may be right in front of you, but you miss them because you’re distracted or not paying attention.
So, what’s the key to maximizing fun with your family this summer?
One of the best things you can do is intentionally set boundaries around these potential fun-blockers listed above. In other words, maximizing fun with your family is less about creating fun experiences, but more about protecting those experiences from becoming hurt.
Be intentional about unplugging.
Leave your electronics and focus on your family whenever possible. Use tools like email auto-responses to let people know when you’ll be available again. If you need to stay connected for any reason (i.e. work, personal obligations), consider scheduling brief, designated times to check in.
Decide when and how you’ll work through the conflict in a healthy way.
Ideally, find a time before your vacation or other planned family time to practice good conflict management skills. Agree to set a problem aside for a reasonable time frame and focus on the positive aspects of your relationship. Chances are, by focusing on the positives, you’ll be in a better place to address the conflict when you come back to it.
Identify your beliefs then work on reconstructing alternative, yet realistic, beliefs that support your goal of having fun with your family.
Focus on how you can carve out even small moments of time to do fun things together. Try looking for low-cost or free activities instead of letting limited financial resources to get in the way.
Cut out some structured activities to leave time (and energy) available for relaxing together.
If you’re on a family vacation, consider scheduling just one major outing/activity per day, leaving the rest of the day free for some spontaneous adventures.
Practice mindfulness to keep distraction and a lack of attention from making you miss out on what’s happening in front of you.
It can be as simple as noticing what’s happening in the moment. How you’re feeling, what you’re thinking, what your senses are experiencing, and what’s happening around you. It’s normal for your mind to wander, but develop ways to remind yourself to come back to the present moment. The beauty of the present moment is that it’s always right there before you – if you just pay attention!