We walk you through the behavioural benefits of a family holiday, and give you tips on how to make vacations with your loved ones better.
The Benefits of a Family Holiday
- Maintain boundaries
- Enhance family unity
- Promote collective interests
- Enhance communications
- Teach adult roles
Tips for a Great Family Holiday
- Leave work at home
- Try something new
- Do things you all want to do
- Don’t be overbearing
- Don’t be a buzzkill
If you’re reading this, you probably enjoy travelling but don’t do it enough. You most likely have kids. You might be experienced at taking family holidays, or you might not be. Either way, you probably weren’t aware of the huge number of psychological and behavioural benefits family holidays can bring.
Let’s first take a look at why people holiday. Is it because they’re looking for incredible attractions? Because they’re hotel connoisseurs who want to experience the best of the hospitality industry? Because they’re set on exploring the unclaimed corners of the globe?
Actually, no. According to research, people go on holiday for three main reasons:
- A holiday is ‘free’ time – no work or everyday stresses
- Holidays are ‘highlights’ – they’re the best parts of a year
- Holidays involve fun, pleasure and entertainment
But we all know that family holidays can get messy. If you’re travelling with kids, the lack of everyday stress can easily be replaced by holiday stress. They can also cost money – another thing you have to worry about. So why go to all the bother?
Here’s the thing: family holidays might not always turn out to be the daydream fantasy you’d initially imagined, but they have well-documented benefits for family bonding, communication and solidarity. Having a cohesive family is a priority for most of us, but it’s becoming increasingly important as the pace of everyday life speeds up.
Family time – genuine shared moments untainted by social media or work – is hard to get. So family holidays become a kind of break, a time when you daily routine doesn’t chew into conversations or interrupt activities. You already know, for that reason alone, how important holidays with your loved ones are.
In this article, we’re going to break down the psychological and behavioural benefits, backed up by factual research.
The Benefits of a Family Holiday
Establish/maintain boundaries in the family system
When we think of boundaries in relationships (romantic and otherwise), we think of lines that shouldn’t be crossed. That’s right, but it’s also not a complete definition.
Boundaries, in a family setting, aren’t just rules laid down by you, the parents – they’re psychological constructions that define roles and create functioning family units. It’s pretty complex, but the main takeaway is that they’re important.
American researchers Dennis Orthner and Jay Mancini found that shared leisure activities were essential for establishing and maintaining boundaries, as opposed to the routines of work and household life.
Enhance family unity
If you’re a parent, one of your biggest concerns as your kids get older is that they’ll become distant. They move out, have new experiences, get partners, and suddenly the person turning up once a year at Christmas is a stranger.
As it turns out, taking family holidays is one of the best ways to keep your family unified. There’s plenty of research backing this up, from respected academics like Orthner, Mancini, Jarmila Horna, John Kelly, Janice Kelly, Edward Mayo and Lance Jarvis.
One of our favourites is the 2001 survey by Susan Shaw and Don Dawson, which investigated how parents valued leisure time. One of the survey participants, a mother, stated, “When we get together we learn how to interact with each other, because you have to think of other people’s feelings when you’re doing things. You also have to learn to give and take when you’re doing activities together.”
Promote collective interests
Shaw and Dawson also found that holidaying and engaging in leisure activities with your family leads to the promotion of collective interests – that is, things that you all enjoy doing. This is especially important during your children’s teenage years, when they start becoming more mature and adopting new and different interests.
Going on a family holiday helps you to get to know them better, and lets you find common ground in the form of shared interests. This, in turn, leads to a better-bonded family and increased intra-family communication.
If you’re struggling to talk to your kids, you’re not alone. It’s been happening to parents since pretty much forever. The natural boundaries between parents and children can be difficult to overcome, particularly when your children start to become more independent.
It’s times like these when maintaining good communication channels with your kids is so important – you don’t want to lose touch with them, and you also want to be there if they need someone to talk to.
Taking family holidays is a great way to keep the dialogue flowing. Horna and Shaw and Dawson both found that shared leisure time enhanced communications within family units.
Teach adult roles/activities
Family is the cornerstone of a child’s education, and holidays are one of the best places to learn new competencies and practice for future family roles.
Kelly and Kelly found that, during leisure time, children seek to augment both their identities and their skillsets – specifically, many of the skills necessary for being functioning adults. These skills and ‘adult roles’ might not be easily practised in their day-to-day lives, but a holiday with their parents as adult role models is a great environment to help children grow and develop as people.
Our Tips For Taking a Great Family Holiday
Now you know how important holidays are for your family, it’s time to start thinking about practical ways to take an amazing family vacation. We’ve put together this list of tips to help you get the most out of your parent ’n’ kid getaway.
Leave work at home
Bringing your laptop and phone to the family holiday is a great way to spoil it for everyone, particularly if you’re taking phone calls and hosting Skype chats every half an hour.
We know leaving work at home isn’t always possible (trust us, we know), but try to avoid contaminating your holiday with the office. You won’t be able to properly relax, your kids won’t feel like you’re giving them your full attention, and your partner probably won’t be too pleased either.
If you really have to be available, make sure you tell your co-workers and boss to only contact you if it’s urgent.
Try something new
As much as it’s nice to have a routine, taking a holiday means leaving that routine where it belongs: at home. When you go to the trouble of vacationing somewhere new and exciting, don’t just do the same old activities – branch out!
Try a crazy new adrenaline rush, visit some fascinating new areas, or even spice it up by getting a different cocktail. You might discover that you like something you thought you hated, and doing unusual experiences with your family is a great way to bond.
Do things you all want to do
There’s definitely limits to this one, but don’t just split up and ignore each other on your holiday. Make sure you do at least one activity together each day you’re away. That way, you’re not only creating a closer family unit, but you’re also showing your children that you respect their wants and desires, which is great for a more harmonious parent-child relationship.
Don’t be overbearing
There are few things more damaging to the parent-child relationship than overbearing parents who don’t treat their children as maturing, self-contained people. Don’t just dictate what activities are part of the holiday – involve your children in the decision-making process.
Not only will you end up with a more satisfying holiday for everyone, you’ll also get insights into what your children actually enjoy doing, which is great for bonding and communication.
Don’t be a buzzkill
What do we mean by ‘buzzkill’? That person who reluctantly agrees to do an activity because everyone else wants to, and then sighs, tap their foot impatiently, refuses to participate, and generally acts like a thief of joy.
Compromise is good, but compromising gracefully is even more important. If your family wants to do something, sometimes it’s helpful to just smile and get involved, even if there’s something you’d prefer to be doing instead.
If you’ve read this article and you’re feeling inspired, why not check out some more family holiday content here? We regularly post guides about where to go, what do to and what to eat if you’re travelling with kids, so, if you liked this article and found it helpful, we’d love it if you subscribed. Alternatively, share this post on social media so your friends and family can read it too.