by Karon Goodman
We look forward to vacations with such anticipation and expectation. We want to have a good time, relax, and enjoy something different. Unfortunately, sometimes with a stepfamily vacation, what happens is anything but enjoyable and we end up feeling about as relaxed as an air traffic controller.
If we're lucky, we don't seriously injure anyone or stop by the lawyer's office on the way home, but the memories and stress of a bad vacation can be very damaging. Let's start with a little prevention and try to make your next stepfamily vacation a fun success.
Why does it seem so hard to have a good vacation as a stepfamily anyway? The answer lies in the other issues that your stepfamily faces. If your kids can't get along at home, they won't be more likely to do it on a vacation. If you face problems of disrespect or misbehavior, that, too, won't change just because you're taking a fun trip. Those kinds of issues remain, and the trick is to recognize them and work through them so that your vacation can be fun, and maybe even the beginning of a tradition that brings your family closer together.
So we'll work here to learn how to make the best of these opportunities. Perhaps these three steps will help you to have a more fun and satisfying vacation. Good luck!
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Planning. This step involves two kinds of planning. First, of course, plan your vacation. A certain level of spontaneity is great, but all too often, if there isn't a plan, there isn't anything to do. Think ahead to something that the kids would really enjoy and make it a special treat that you keep secret until the last minute. Plan for accidents and missed lunches. Plan for spills in the car and the need for extra batteries.
When you have the kids at home, plan a backyard campout or a day at a local attraction that you've never visited. Or give the kids disposable cameras, take them to a park or through your neighborhood, and then let them have their own exhibit. Or even start establishing a new schedule during the time away from school, such as an hour of "quite time" every day. When it's presented as part of "vacation," almost anything can sound like fun.
Second, plan to deal with those issues that are still part of your stepfamily, even on vacation. If you prepare for the uncomfortable moments that may occur, they won't ruin your entire vacation like a hurricane at the beach. Plan how to quickly handle the arguments and hurt feelings when they arise. Remember that the vacation won't last that long, so try to gear up for all of the "togetherness" and relish the enjoyable moments.
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Perseverance. You know what happens to the best laid plans…. A little flexibility will go a long way toward a successful vacation, so a good plan includes lots of options. Schedules are always apt to change in a stepfamily, so try to be prepared for that. And if something's not working, don't be afraid to change your plan. As adults and kids get tired and cranky, adjust your plans or include some extra down time.
And when you find yourself or the kids in the middle of a fight or power struggle, end it and move on. You won't be able to solve your family's problems during the days of your vacation, so don't try. Just find an immediate solution and get back to the purpose of the time together -- to have fun. Remember what you hoped to gain from your vacation, and it will give you strength to carry on even if there are some bad moments. Just try to get past those moments as quickly as possible. Hang in there.
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Perspective. One of the reasons that some stepfamily members are so often disappointed in their vacations is because they put so much expectation into them. They anticipate that everyone will get along beautifully, that those magical family moments will just happen one after the other, and that the family will return bonded and strong. Sometimes, that might happen, but too often, the vacation falls short of those lofty expectations.
Whether you'll just be spending a few days on a break at home or taking a car trip across the country, keep your perspective about the outcome. Your vacation doesn't have to be perfect to be a success. Even if there are rocky moments or hurt feelings or angry exchanges, it can still be a time to draw your family closer together if you keep your focus on the positive parts. Remember the times that did help to grow your family. Let the rest go.
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A vacation together can be a great experience for your family, or it can be a disaster. Remember to plan ahead, to persevere in the face of difficulties, and to keep your perspective about it all. Take what you learn from each vacation to make the next one better. It's a great way to bring your family closer together.
Karon Goodman [ http://karongoodman.com ] author of The Stepmom’s Guide to Simplifying Your Life and the upcoming Stepping Stones for Stepmoms: Everyday Strengths for a Blended Family Mom