Summer Vacation as a Litmus Test: How to Communicate your way to a great vacation!
By: Ingrid Jacob-Hicks, M.A. MFT Intern
Putting all routine aside, you decide it’s time for a break and to spend time with your family. Great idea – sounds simple, right? Vacation is time to relax, unwind, enjoy the moments, and let go of the responsibilities that get in the way of enjoying each other. You imagine lazy days on the beach, meaningful conversation, laughter, reconnecting with your spouse, the children enjoying nostalgic summer moments for a lifetime of memories. Easier said than done!
How more often than not, though, is your time off riddled with tension left over from stresses at work, arguments about how to parent the children, disagreements about how to plan your vacation…..not so picturesque like you imagined. How many times were you excited to go back to work after some days spent with your family? You are not alone!!
A successful vacation is a great litmus test of your communication skills as a couple and family. Routine keeps everyone in their own corner. Responsibilities are clear, the schedule is set. Once these structures are taken away, we have a lot of negotiating to do….where should we go, do we sleep in or get up and go. How much money should we spend, what do we eat, do we want a lazy vacation with a book by the pool, or an adventurous escapade? So many decisions, and different opinions in the pool.
Believe it or not, communicating your way through the maze of an enjoyable break can have a greater influence on your day-to-day life than just fond memories to put in your scrapbook. Take this opportunity to practice being a good listener to your spouse. Try to really understand what they want to get out of your vacation. Be open to negotiating so you both, (and possibly the kids) feel like you are getting your needs met. Build into your family life open, honest and respectful discussions. Don’t rush the process. Democracy takes time, patience and good listening skills. Make a chart, take a vote, whatever you can do to include everyone’s opinion. Even if it’s just where to go for dinner or what movie to see.
Also, don’t be surprised by meltdowns and emotional upset. Vacation can be a time for clearing the air, and expressing what has been pent up during the busy work/school season. Vacation can be seen as a time for “emotional cleansing”, which will renew your relationships for the school year.
If you’ve already come back from vacation and are just glad it’s over and want to put it behind you…..don’t miss the chance to learn from your mistakes. Whatever discord showed up on your vacation is present in your daily family life, just muted down. Don’t avoid addressing the disharmony – face it head on and be the first to own your side! Talking about what happened on your vacation can be a great springboard to cause some change in your family dynamics. Try to evaluate your own communication style and ask yourself if you approach your family and your own needs from a healthy place. We need to hold in balance our own needs with those in our family. To discount one or the other is where the unit stops functioning well.
We can be hard workers, but if we don’t know how to play well together – we miss out on the rewards. Don’t be afraid to evaluate your summer vacation and see it as a litmus test of how well you are communicating. It takes courage to want the best in your relationships and try for more!