Summer vacations promise relaxation and family bonding, but reality often unfolds differently than we expect. New surroundings, long journeys, unfamiliar faces, and busy schedules can leave children feeling overwhelmed, disconnected, and prone to meltdowns.

Add in the pressure of extended family or judgmental friends, and suddenly your dream getaway feels more like a minefield of whining and uncooperative behavior. It’s easy to feel frustrated when kids aren’t as delightful as we’d hoped, especially when friends or family are less than understanding.

So, what’s the secret ingredient to a smoother family getaway? More quality attention! I know what you’re thinking – “But I’m with them 24/7!” Here’s the twist: it’s about how you spend that time together.

Enter Special Time – your vacation superpower! This one-on-one time with your child can work wonders. Here’s how:

With young kids, all you need is 10-20 minutes. Set a timer, let them know it’s special time, and tell them that you’ll do or play whatever they want. During special time, put away your phone, pour in love and attention, and avoid controlling the play. Let your child take the lead.

You’ll also want to make sure siblings or cousins are cared for so you can do one-on-one time with one kiddo. This may be a little easier when you’re on vacation and other adults are around.

Here are some suggestions of how to incorporate it into the day:

🌅 Start your day with Special Time: Before reaching the breakfast table, where cousins might argue over the same bowl, spend a few minutes of special time with your little one. This will help them feel more relaxed and willing to share. Whether it’s snuggling, reading a book, or playing a quick game, this connection sets a positive tone for the day. 

The key though is to say, “It’s special time. I’ll do or play whatever you want.” This helps ease the strain of a busy vacation schedule they have no control over.

🏞️ Sprinkle Special Time throughout your vacation by slipping away from the rest of your family or friends for a few minutes with each kid. Find pockets of time to focus solely on your child. Let them choose the activity – be it grabbing an ice cream, playing their favorite card game, or exploring a nearby creek. The key is to fully engage and delight in their company.

💞 Use Special Time as a reset button: If tensions rise or meltdowns occur, suggest a quick Special Time session. Maybe a rift has started with a grandparent or two siblings aren’t getting along. Break up the tension or repair a hard moment with special time. This can help your child feel heard and valued, often diffusing tricky situations.

🥾 If you have a long hike planned, incorporate special time along the way. One mom found success with her reluctant 6-year-old hiker by taking a 10-minute special time break in the woods. They explored beetles and jumped from rock to rock, allowing the child to feel seen and appreciated. This brief connection renewed their energy for the rest of the hike.

By incorporating Special Time into your vacation routine, you’re not just creating fun memories – you’re strengthening your bond and helping your child feel secure in new environments. It’s amazing how these small pockets of focused attention can transform your entire trip!

So, as you embark on your summer adventures, remember to slow down and prioritize connection, especially when schedules get hectic or you’re surrounded by friends, family, or strangers. Your child (and your sanity) will thank you!

We’d love to hear about your summer experiences or any specific challenges you’re facing. Drop us a comment and let’s keep the conversation going!