Never confuse a family trip with a vacation. Although they have some things in common, they are definitely not the same thing. Both involve some form of travel. They include opportunities to make memories, try new things. Generally pictures are taken; and post cards and souvenirs are available for purchase. But if you expect your family trip to be a vacation, you will be frustrated–a lot. You will be traveling with the same stressful people that you live with and things will go wrong. So be sure to pack the “Family Mind.” Family Mind is your active, intentional, best attitude. It allows you to consider the sensitivities, interests, developmental abilities, and limitations of your loved ones.
Just like building muscles for exercise, Family Mind takes practice to avoid burn out or injury. So don’t wait until just before a trip to start this mental work out. Start today. Step away from your loved ones for a moment. Close your eyes and picture your family. Take a deep breath. Feel gratitude. Imagine them at their best. Fill yourself with unconditional love and peace. Get calm. Now visualize them whining, crying, irritable, and cranky. Stay calm. Remember that they are people, perfectly imperfect just like you. They are doing their best even at their worst. Keep breathing. What are their moods likely to be when you greet them? Get ready for reality because you want to be your most patient self no matter what. Return from your practice. Smile. Greet them in love. If they are at their best it will be so easy to delight in their awesomeness. If they are at their worst, at least you are calm. Your peaceful mindset will help you lead them with kindness.
Family Mind is a tool that you must use often and regularly to become a master. Your practice will definitely be put to the test on a family trip:
- When your teenage daughter refuses to get out of the car after discovering that her new boyfriend cheated on her while she was en route to the Grand Canyon.
- When traveling with toddlers, because nobody likes to see a grown person having a Magic Kingdom Meltdown when it’s nap time.
- When no one seems able to coordinate their biological clocks for rest stops.
- When all everyone wants is to spend time with you at the hotel pool, even though there is a pool in your neighborhood several states away.
- When the typical mishaps of travel happen like lost luggage, delayed flights, bad weather, and unexplained rashes.
After you have successfully completed the “couch to 5K” Family Mind work out and returned from your family trip, reflect on the benefit of keeping calm and setting the stage for peace in the midst of family chaos. Your kids will only travel with you for so long before summer jobs, internships, college classes, and growing up get in the way of family trips. Then you will have plenty of time for your vacation.
Dr. Lisa Marotta is our Blogger of the Month.