How to Survive Family Vacations

By Rita Buettner  |  Photo courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons

You can’t wait for your summer vacation! But you’re already thinking ahead to how you’ll make it through your time with extended family without too many disagreements.

Will you have to spend every waking moment discussing the election?

What if your nephews pick on your daughter?

Is there any chance your sister-in-law won’t finish your soy milk without asking?

Looking for advice on how to enjoy your vacation?

Loyola magazine asked Susan Branco, Ph.D., LPC (VA), NCC, ACS, clinical assistant professor in pastoral counseling for the Loyola Clinical Centers, to offer a few tips on how to make the most of your vacation.

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Maintain a schedule.

Even while on vacation, keep waking up at a certain time, continue limiting screen time, and maintain your regular exercise routine. As much as possible, try to keep everyone’s bedtime to the usual time.

Set expectations for yourself.

“Vacations get built up to be this spectacular time, but they aren’t all relaxing,” Branco said. “Select one thing you each want to be able to do on vacation, and try to have that happen.”

Communicate your expectations to your extended family.

“Any family can email ahead of time—or a phone call could be lovely—and describe the things that are non-negotiable routines/foods/parenting needs that work for your family,” Branco said. “Not judging. Maybe one family lets their child drink soda or allows unlimited screen time. Having your family’s norms out there before you’re all there tends to head off conflict.”

Define boundaries in advance.

When families get together, certain topics and issues may be heightened, such as religion, politics, and conversations about race. “An extended family member, especially of another generation, might not be as sensitive. Then it can become a burden for a child (of color) in a transracial family,” said Branco, whose family is transracial. “I’ve said this to my family every summer vacation, ‘If anyone is saying something offensive, we’re leaving, and this is why.’”

Share your feelings with your immediate family.

“We’re not all good at this—even if we are not on vacation,” Branco said. “If something is bothering you, give each other clues that you might need a moment.” She recommends being attuned to others’ feelings, as well. Successful family vacations benefit from a higher level of empathy and respect.

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1 Comment

  • Posted by Fred Murphy '89 | July 12, 2016

    On Family Ties (which I used to watch frequently at Melanzoni’s in the eighties), Steven Keaton used to prepare for family gatherings by making a list of neutral discussion subjects to bring up: Daylight Saving Time, crabgrass, and the invention of the printing press.

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