How to have the family holiday of your dreams

Save your holiday from being spoiled by massive meltdowns, terrible tantrums and mindless moaning with these tips. By Lisa Witepski

Hands up if this situation sounds familiar: You’ve spent six months planning your December escape, pouring over AirBnB sites, searching for fun family activities, and picturing what it will feel like to finally shut that laptop. At no point does your vision feature a toddler whining because her ice cream fell on the floor, because she wants to get out the car (on the middle of the N2) or crying because your hotel room looks nothing like home. But, that’s what often happens.

Follow our tips to make sure the reality is closer to the fantasy.

Understand your child’s tolerance of unfamiliarity

While you might thrive on the new and different, kids thrive on structure and routine (two words that sound distinctly at odds with a holiday’s take-it-as-it-comes spirit). Some children are even more attuned to changes in their day than others. For these kids, says Cape Town-based parenting coach Laura Markovits, taking a break from school is a big deal, which makes travelling to another city really tough. If your child fits into this category, ease the transition by keeping a calendar of the holiday and explaining what they can expect each day.

Don’t discard boundaries altogether

Obviously you do not plan to wake up at 6am every day – but understand that your child needs at least some boundaries in place. Soften bedtime, but don’t push it back for hours and keep meal times more or less regular, Laura advises. The added bonus? You’ll battle less to get them into a routine when school starts again.

ALSO SEE: How to stick to a flexible daily routine on holiday

Acknowledge the hard bits

Hard bits? Really? Yes – if you’re a kid and everything is strange and new and you really miss your dog. Holidays are fun and exciting for us precisely because everything is so different, but don’t expect your child to feel the same way. Discuss any negative emotions they might be going through, and show that you understand that it feels weird when nothing is familiar. Don’t dismiss these fears and concerns, and don’t make your child feel ashamed for feeling them.

Be prepared

Many a crisis can be averted by making sure you’ve packed her favourite snuggly before you pack anything else. Let her choose some favourite books and toys too, Laura advises.

More about the expert:

Laura Markovits is a certified a PCI Certified Parent Coach® operating in Cape Town. She also has a LLB and Honours degree in Psychology. Read more about Laura here.

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