Just in time for winter vacation, here is a tip from Meg Akabas, a certified parenting educator and author of 52 Weeks of Parenting Wisdom: Effective Strategies for Raising Happy, Responsible Kids (January 8th, 2013). (http://www.booksparkspr.com/clients/meg-akabas/)
Are you traveling with young ones in tow this holiday vacation? Or perhaps you’re already planning a fabulous trip for spring or summer break. Family trips offer a wonderful opportunity for family togetherness and lasting memories. Vacations, however, can also be stressful as parents try to keep everyone organized, engaged and happy.
Here is a successful strategy I’ve used in our travels for more than 20 years: I make a chart before the trip with each child’s name down the left-hand side and each day/date of the trip labeled across the top. I fill in chart by assigning a role for each child, rotating them each day (very young children are assigned to “assist”). One child is in charge of choosing optional activities, one child supervises navigation, and one child selects places for meals. We set out on the trip with the chart ready for reference.
To implement the plan, obviously, you must set the parameters, but then the child in charge solicits the opinions of all the siblings, learns about the possibilities from you, and makes a decision.
For example, the navigator might look at the map, study routes with you, and ask who wants to drive by the ocean and who wants to drive by the inland parks; after everyone voices an opinion, the navigator chooses. The day’s activity leader might use the same procedure to choose among a movie, miniature golf, or a science museum for the afternoon time slot. The meal planner might select between Mexican cuisine or a pizza parlor for lunch. Or, if a picnic is planned, help the parent who is shopping for the food decide on the purchases. For each job, the older the child the more they can be involved in researching options.
This technique of involving everyone in the planning and execution of the trip can be adapted and used no matter the type of vacation you take.
And, it can be modified to meet the needs of your own family (you can come up with your own responsibility categories) and the number of children. If a child is too young to participate in the decision-making, the siblings must represent that child’s needs as part of their planning. But, no matter how you implement this system, it will have the desired outcome of keeping your kids content because 1) they have a real say in decision-making, and, 2) everybody has input. My kids immediately got on board with this method when I introduced it, and it has been a popular tradition ever since…happy kids = happy mom!
MEG AKABAS is the founder of New York City-based Parenting Solutions™, a consultancy designed to help parents discover the joy in parenting, and the author of 52 Weeks of Parenting Wisdom: Effective Strategies for Raising Happy, Responsible Kids. For more information, visit www.parenting-solutions.com.
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