5 Ways I Connect with My Kids on Vacation

Family Travel on 01.18.12
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Photo: Anja Johnson/Creative Commons

We save all year for the chance to relax and reconnect with our loved ones during family vacations, and yet too often we come home tired, frazzled, and a bit disillusioned. Or maybe that's just me.

I have a tendency, as my mother did before me, to imagine my family vacations will be great bonding experiences, free of bickering or whining and filled with heartfelt talks. My children rarely follow script, and my husband isn't much better in the "emotional heart to heart" department. And yet, I keep traveling with them, picking up a few lessons along the way.

1. Turn off the phone.

turn off cell phone
Photo: Nathan Reed/Creative Commons

My daughter and I recently visited Turks and Caicos, where I had no cell phone reception and limited wifi signal. Leaving my beloved iPhone in my hotel room made me realize how connected I am to my portable technology, and how easily that can come between me and my kids.

2. Turn off the camera.

turn off camera
Photo: Benimoto/Creative Commons

As a blogger, I am mindful of photo opportunities that will enhance future posts and spruce up my Facebook albums. As a mother, I want to capture every beautiful moment. My kids, however, don't like feeling like trained seals or stalked celebs. The camera, I've found, can become a wall between me and my loved ones, one that needs to be put down occasionally if I really want to connect.

3. Just play.

just play
Photo: Tommy Wong/Creative Commons

It's so tempting to ride rides, plan excursions and play at playgrounds; we're obsessed with structured play it seems. But kids don't need special equipment to play, and they're more than happy to remind us how to use our imaginations. Some of the best moments I had with my daughter during our recent vacation were spent just playing in the pool. We rolled, jumped, dived, floated and laughed, no instructions or assembly required.

4. Play the question game.

play the question game
Photo: Rolands Lakis/Creative Commons

Yes, I know I just said we don't need no stinking rules, but that doesn't mean I never play games with kids. In fact, I've found most of my most meaningful conversations with my six year old begin (and end) with some sort of guessing game. We play "guess the animal" and recently started playing what she refers to as "talk about it". The rules are simple: we take turns asking each other any question we want and giving the best answers we can. Our questions ranged from "What's your favorite color?" and "What super power do you want?" to "What do you love about yourself?" and "What happens to us when we die?"

5. Be quiet.

be quiet
Photo: Dawn/Creative Commons

This is the most difficult thing for me as a parent. I am a talker; it's how I experience the world around me, show love and connect with people. That need for communication can be overwhelming for my kids. I'm trying to practice being quiet more often, because I've noticed that's when my kids are most likely to open up to me.

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