The summer months offer families a time to get away, enjoy a change in scenery, and breathe some fresh air. Whether the days away are filled with sightseeing, hiking, sailing, amusement parks, or lazy days at the beach, the relaxed and refreshed spirit that has been nurtured by a vacation can quickly be quenched by chaos once your key turns in the lock of your front door.
Vacation recovery can be particularly hard for kids. Physically, they may not have gotten enough sleep while they were away, and they may have engaged in more physical activity than is normal for them. Emotionally, they are coming down from that “vacation high” and may experience feelings of sadness and disappointment that The Big Trip has come to an end.
As a parent, you will set the tone for the transition from vacation to routine. Your children will mirror the way you approach the first few days after you arrive home. Here are three suggestions for creating peace and harmony as you and your children navigate the re-entry into the rhythms of real life.
1. Be proactive.
One of the underlying mottos of Simple Mom is “when Mom is doing well, the whole family thrives.” Take the time before you leave for vacation to outline what makes you feel the most at peace when you return from a trip. Then, no matter how frenzied things get before you walk out the door, invest some time in doing the things you know will make yourself feel calm and collected when you return.
For me, this means making sure the trash has been carried out, the beds are made, and the vacuum cleaner has been run. These are non-negotiable tasks for me. What inspires peace within you when you return to your home? Make it a priority to see that these are done.
In addition to setting the scene for an orderly return for yourself, you might also take some time to set up a comforting, welcoming atmosphere that your children will appreciate. If your children are young, make sure that their rooms have been picked up and that a cozy pair of pajamas and a favorite bedtime story are waiting on a neatly made and turned-down bed.
Encourage older children to make up their own lists of what makes them feel good when they arrive home from vacation, and oversee the actions they will need to take to create a tranquil “welcome home” scene for themselves.
2. Be realistic.
Whether you are young or old, spending several days or several weeks out of your usual routine can cause inner turbulence. It is not realistic to expect that you or your children will snap back the routines and patterns of everyday life immediately. Likewise, the suitcases may not be immediately unpacked, nor will the laundry be washed, dried, folded, and put away in an instant.
Determine the number of days for a realistic vacation recuperation time, and block that time off of your family’s calendar. The weekend after returning home from a trip may not be the most appropriate time to host a neighborhood cook-out, and it’s not thoughtful to plan a week’s worth of camp or other activities for your child following a family vacation.
Photo by Sharon Mollerus
3. Be gentle.
Remember, the goal here is to allow the refreshed and relaxed vacation mood to linger as long as possible. A mindful, slowed-down approach to the days following a family vacation will go a long way towards promoting peace in your home. Don’t get so caught up in getting back to the routines of life that you overlook or diminish your child’s need for a time of transition.
Emotions and feelings are not neat and orderly. Stop and listen. Offering a nurturing spirit and a calming touch is more important that folding and putting away clothes. Older children may want to talk about and relive some of their favorite moments from the trip. Uploading and printing out pictures or capturing thoughts in a vacation journal demonstrates to your children that you also want to honor the time you spent together as a family. These are the memories your children will want to hold on to – not how quickly you got the suitcases unpacked and stored away.
For home managers who are generally organized, the disorganization following vacation can be stressful. For the free-spirited home manager, the motivation and desire to get back on track might get lost in the tumult. Take some deep breaths, focus on the big picture, and remind yourself that vacation recovery doesn’t last forever. Eventually life will settle back into its familiar groove. Even in the midst of chaos, you can make a pathway for peace.
Do you find the days following vacation to be a challenge within your family? What are your biggest hurdles to a peaceful recovery? What have you discovered works best to get your family settled in and ready to ease back in to the rhythms of life?
This post was originally published on July 8, 2009.