Pressured to take a family holiday, but dreading the prospect of close proximity?
So many times when the family is thrown together the little niggling problems from normal family life seem to loom larger and louder. Guilt can so easily move into the deckchair along with you as you search for an odd moment of peace.

The children seem to fight more even though they have a week or two to relax and ‘chill out’, or is it that you notice it more now that you are away from other distractions.

Parents’ idiosyncrasies and needs that are part of your normal home life suddenly grate as you fight for time to yourself doing things that you like to do.

Partners, rather than relax, seem to be preoccupied with what is going on at home rather than participating in what is going on in the family. Or, maybe they, too, are looking for a few moments of peace swimming alone, soaking in a bath or just strolling around a new and exciting town and doing some retail therapy. Even though you long for silence, the mobile phone never stops ringing as a reminder of just how pressing the needs of others are upon you.

Just as you are wondering if the trip was worth it, an odd moment sipping a cocktail or a swirl around the dance-floor flashes you a past memory of your partner and how things once were. You feel a stir, passions igniting and promising as your hands touch and your eyes meet, intimacy deepens. You both run barefoot through the hotel, impatient with the lift, the room keys and then, rushing into the room and bouncing onto the bed you look at each other and both simultaneously raise a forefinger to your lips with a momentous shhhhhh.

There are three secrets to enjoying a family holiday. These are talking, negotiating and learning to share and care.

Finding just the right destination that will thrill and provide entertainment for all the family members means considering such things as the ages of the family members and whether they could participate in some, if not all of the amenities provided.

Even though children complain, a cycling, hiking or a camping holiday may teach them something about self-sufficiency, sharing and caring and even how to survive in an emergency. Learning that everyone has a role to play in providing enjoyment to all the family members, whether it be helping to peel vegetables, taking it in turns to choose the music or the songs for the evening camp fire, or deciding upon the camp site or accommodation according to the facilities provided for all the family members’ individual needs will help to bond the family and encourage responsibility for and nurturing off all, as well as a sense of fulfilment at the end of the trip.

Not your thing? A motoring holiday may, at first thought be an easy way of having a holiday together. Wrong. From their tired irritations to the constant bickering, children find hours spent cooped up in the back of a car or camper so hard to take they will punish the parents one way or other.

Single activity holidays and interests such as sports pursuits, horse-riding, painting or farming can work well.

What about multi-interest holidays? Holiday camps, Water resorts and up market holiday clubs work provided your children are independent. There is nothing worse than spending loads of money only to find that your child just won’t be left with kindergarten staff or children’s entertainers. Sometimes though, these options can help to mould new behaviours once the initial tantrum (s) have waned and the child finds new, interesting people to play with and things to do. However, I have found myself that once the initial period has been overcome, the holiday can be ideal for both children and parents who are able to relax and enjoy their time apart from each other. This depends upon parents being willing to stand firm and not to give in to their child’s emotional blackmail.

What about the sulky teenager who is hell bent in giving you grief? Making an obvious point by their reluctance to participate in anything, skulking away silently into the corners or far recess of the holiday site or deliberately going AWOL, you will pay the price unless you do some simple exercises before you book your holiday.

1. Sit down as a family and ask each person in turn what they want to get out of the holiday, and why. The answers will be most enlightening and irrespective of the child’s age, they will react positively to the fact that they are being treated as an equal. By doing this, it will become obvious what each person needs to experience and this can be built in to the trip. By knowing the ‘why’ it becomes easier to understand each person’s motivation, values and needs and their urgency and therefore importance to them. By acknowledging this and giving this aspect a tangible quality, they will feel that they are important and being considered and approach the holiday as a worthwhile happy experience. Everyone gains something.

2. Children’s (especially adolescent and teenage) objections to going along with the family can be overcome by either a special ‘bribe’ (something that you know they want) as a reward for contributing to the rest of the family members holiday happiness (just by being there), or, alternatively a surprise gift which could be anything from two tickets to a concert or show, perhaps even with grown up dinner with a friend (taxi escorted from door to door of course). You might feel reluctant to ‘bribe’ family members in this way when you believe that they should go because they ‘want’ to go or because you say they ‘should’ go willingly. Hey, this is their holiday too, and if all it takes is a ‘bribe’ to get them to contribute willingly, it is a small price to pay for your peace of mind and not having to worry the whole holiday long about what they are getting up to at home. Right?

3. Deciding together round the table something that each person can choose for the rest of the family to join them doing during the holiday from a list of, say, three items, encourages each person to contribute towards the happy and contented experiences of each family member. By letting every family member have at least one choice about what the whole family participates in, everyone gets to do something they love and everyone learns about sharing experiences and enjoying time spent together. This is a win-win opportunity to build greater family bonds and to teach unselfish behaviour, and the fact that experiences can turn out to be good, even if you think that they won’t.

Some rules have to be adhered to in order for your holiday to run smoothly.

1. The family experiences that are to take place (at least one chosen by each family member) are decided before starting out on the holiday, so everyone has something to look forward to.
2. If circumstances change (because of outside influences not family ones) and arrangements have to be altered, the member who chose that item gets to have a second choice instead. Everyone else must go along with that person’s wishes.
3. Every day starts with a truce. Nothing is carried forward to the next day from the day before. No sulking or tantrums. Any problems must be talked out between all the family members until a solution is found (usually by compromise, offering an apology (apologies), or both).
4. Every day each member of the family must sit together at mealtimes (at least for breakfast and evening meal) and contribute one topic of conversation. This can be a positive aspect about what has been planned for the family the night before, or about an experience (no matter how small or trivial) or about what they love to do or what they love about their family. Positive speak spreads positive feelings and thoughts.
5. Find something to laugh about each day that is not to do with the family members. Each person is required to tell the family what they found difficult about the days experiences and what they enjoyed. Getting to know your family members more and more will help to create a culture of contentment and fulfilment between you all and to build a strong family identity. When all the family members are given equal importance, when they feel that their needs are listened to and they are respected, you will be so surprised at how happy you can all be in each other’s company.
6. When you do have something that you are not happy about, either a criticism of one of the family members and their behaviour or something that is bothering you from outside the family, state what you don’t like in a calm and value free voice, honestly but not emotionally. Your aim is to tell the offender calmly and quietly what is wrong and why, and how this has affected you. Criticising the offender will only put their back up or make them feel shamed, embarrassed or humiliated, criticised or ridiculed. The aim of the experience is to have a kind conversation in order to put things right, not to punish others for your hurt. Give them the chance to put things right, even make amends, but allow them the grace to do this. It will make them feel better, and speaking about your problem nicely and getting a good result will make you feel better. You both gain something from the experience and have the opportunity to get on with life together free from blame, hurt or resentment. It will lead to a better relationship with both parties, and a much better holiday too.
7. When you return from your holiday, build a photo album or a scrapbook of the holiday together as a family experience. This is like giving a positive feedback to each other and reminding each of you about your happy experiences together. The sense of happy closure to the experience will live on for the next time.

Angela Saunders,
The U.K’s Leading ‘Relationship Doctor’, can be found at:
Your Relationship Help Starts Here.

Author's Bio: 

Angela Saunders is a Chartered Psychologist who has over 25 years experience in counselling and problem solving. She has worked with individuals and companies to improve relationships and understanding, teaching how to overcome conflict and the effects of change. Her expertise has led her to work with some of the UK’s leading corporates and she has appeared on popular television chat shows and national and local radio stations. Angela has been a regular contributor to press room content.