Expert / 29 June, 2021 / Neil Wilkie
Wonder how to minimise family arguments this summer? Want to go away without the bickering between kids and or adults? Relationship expert and psychotherapist Neil Wilkie is on hand with some advice to help everybody keep their cool in the summer heat.
Summer holidays have moved from being a distant dream to an imminent reality. Unless your dream trip is to Gibraltar, Iceland or the Falklands, the reality is most of our holidays will be in the UK. Holidays are an incredibly special time but they can also be stressful, especially this year, when they’re likely to be overpriced and overcrowded, as well as subject to the Great British weather. This means there is a danger of disappointment.
It’s essential to let all the stresses and strains of lockdown go and have a wonderful time together as a family. If it is your first holiday with your baby, it is an opportunity to create memories you’ll treasure forever. If your children are older then it is time to lift their lockdown blues.
Here are 7 tips to help you all have a fun-filled, argument-free family holiday:
You may feel weighed down by frustration and uncertainty. Lockdown has been a long and draining time. The end is now in sight and your summer holiday is a great way of taking the first step into a new world.
Make sure that you leave the worries and the past behind otherwise they will cast a shadow over everyone else and the holiday. When you shut the front door of your own house take a deep breath and as you breathe gently out just get a sense of all those cares being left behind. You don’t need them, they won’t help.
This is a great opportunity to create the holiday that you really want and deserve, rather than getting stuck in a rut of always doing the same things or going to the same places, which can mean holidays full of raised hopes and disappointments. View this holiday as being new and different. Given the restrictions, what can you do differently this year?
Here is one exercise to help avoid the family arguments:
• Think through what a perfect holiday will be for you and how you will be feeling
• Look at the last one, what went well and what could be even better
• Get each of your family to do this and see what is the same and what is similar
• Co-create the perfect summer holiday, that will make everyone happy
When you get to your hotel or holiday house realise that this is a different place. This is a break for you your partner and your children. Before you walk in the front door take a deep breath in and get a sense of the enjoyment that you will all be having in the next few days. See if that has a metaphorical shape, size or a colour and allow that feeling of happiness to fill you completely. Maybe get your partner to do the same. Then open the door with a smile and walk into this new future, without the family arguments.
If you have teenage children, the first two questions will probably be ‘what’s the Wi-Fi code’ and ‘can I have a Coke?’ Understand that their needs are different from yours. Once they have resolved their fundamental survival needs, they may soften.
If your children are younger or babies then they will do an amazing job of modelling your behaviour. Happiness is wonderfully infectious!
What were the best holidays you had as a child, what did you really enjoy about them? This is a brilliant opportunity to relive the joys of childhood again. So, unleash the child within and have fun; do silly things, act young, be carefree and laugh until you think you’re going to cry.
To really enjoy your holiday and avoid any family arguments, you need to be fully present with your partner and family. The ping of a new message coming in to your device or a Facebook or Instagram notification is as addictive as crack cocaine. It sets the feel-good hormone dopamine flooding the system.
If you or your children are hooked on your electronic devices you need to set part of the day – as well as mealtimes – as a zone where devices are switched off or on silent and out of sight. If you do that, there is a real danger that that you may all have interesting conversations!
You can catalyse that by asking open and interesting questions. For example, each of you tell two truths and a lie about your past. Or each of you to draw a picture representing life as it is, right now, for you and another picture representing your ideal life in the future. Share, explain and discuss.
At the end of each day, share 3 good things that each of you have noticed.
At the beginning of every day ask everyone these three clean setup questions, so that everyone has a voice and their needs and feelings considered:
• For this day to go the way I would like it to, it will be like X
• For this day to be like X, I would like to be like Y
• For this day to be like X and me to be like Y, I would like you all to be like Z
If you feel that things are not going right during the day with your partner or children ask them, at an appropriate time ‘how are you feeling now?’ It is possible that you could be reading the situation wrongly or it will give them a great opportunity to express their true feelings.
You are in a different physical place. It is lovely if the sun is shining and even if it is pouring with rain you can pause, connect with nature and see, feel and hear many different things. Every day look for a new or different experience, learn something about our planet and find what you can do to make this world a better place.
Bring happy memories, a happy partner and a happy family back with you.
Neil Wilkie is a Relationship Expert, Psychotherapist, author of the Relationship Paradigm Series of Books and creator of online couples therapy, The Relationship Paradigm®. Find out more at Relationship Paradigm
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