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Creating post-vacation peace for your children

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.

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  1. Emily

    Thanks for the tips, Megan! I never thought of kids needing to recover from vacation, but when I think about my post-vacation experience as a child, you’ve hit the nail right on the head!

  2. LobotoME

    these are great tips – thanks for sharing. i’m typically more of a BAM get back into the groove of things, unpack, restock the fridge – all within about 6 hours of returning home….so i needed this reminder that the kids could use additional transition time & space. j 🙂

  3. Kelly Coyle DiNorcia

    Thanks for this post! My husband and I refer to the post-vacation period as “Re-entry Stress” and have been trying to find ways to minimize it. He also travels for work and we find the same phenomenon occurs when he returns from a trip even if we didn’t go with him. I thought I was the only one who made sure the house was clean before we left!

  4. Liz Autry

    Thank you so much for this! Now I understand what happened to us last week. 🙂

  5. Jeri Graybill

    Great blog. I know your points matter. It’s happened too many times that we find ourselves on the other side of a long weekend or trip feeling like we need a vacation from the vacation.

  6. Leanne

    Yes, I do a quick houseclean before we leave too. Although eager to get away, I hate returning home (usually exhausted) with the inevitable 5 extra loads of washing, only to find I need to vacuum or change the beds as well.

    I like to give the kids 4 or so days, to slowly get back to routines. Bedtime is the biggest one usually. Fifteen minutes earlier each night gets us back on track with a minimum of fuss. Phasing in the kids’ routines is less stressful for them and us parents.

    @Kelly – I didn’t realise until I read your comment, but that’s exactly what happens when hubby has been away on business. I’ll try to remember to use our post holiday phasing in when he returns from his next trip.

  7. Jenn @ Beautiful Calling

    I experienced that already after returning from a three week visit to my inlaws. This week we’re going camping and I know it will be hard when we return as well.
    Very timely and true.

  8. Kristen

    The best thing I’ve ever done for myself or for my young children is having a babysitter arriving the morning after we get back. She arrives fresh and enthusiastic to distract my cranky children, while I use the time to go grocery shopping, start the laundry, and generally reorganize myself. By the time she leaves, my children are tired and ready for a nap (often so am I) and when we wake-up, we’re ready to start regular life. For me, it was completely worth the babysitting dollars and I will add it in to our travel budget every time we go on vacation.

  9. Nadene

    What a wonderful nurturing post. Thanks for your tips and advice!

  10. Tina@RideOnToys

    Great tips Megan! I always put too much pressure on myself when we get home from vacation. I feel this great urge to get back into a normal routine immediately and this usually means running to the store (because there’s NO food in the house at all???) and trying to get the laundry done on the same day that I’m home (how unrealistic is that!!).

  11. Josefina Argüello

    I have 6 childrens! We just come back from Chiapas and we need a “Vacation recovery” right now!!

    So…. thanks for your tips and advice! =) This post will be very helpful

  12. Alissa

    So true! I always thought it was funny that my mom would start the dishwasher as we walked out the door for vacation. Now I understand that having the kitchen clean and the house tidy as you walk in the door makes a world of difference.

  13. Kristy

    So true. None of us are very chipper after returning from a long trip. And one of us (me) usually has to put everything back together. I try to wash all of the bedding before we leave on holiday. Coming home to clean sheets is a simple pleasure.

  14. marge

    LOL I thought post-vacation peace was more for the parents, who have had to endure their kids for a week straight. I know after my last trip to the Dominican, I needed a break from my 2 daughters and my husband. I felt like just shutting the door, drawing a bath, and hiding in there for a few days.

  15. Martha's Vineyard vacation

    These are good points. In our hectic lifestyles nowadays, we often make our vacations just as busy. See all the parks at Disney, do every activity on the cruise boat etc. Our family often needs a few days to rest and we should try to do that on vacation !

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