Making Our Family Holidays Happy


I hope you are all enjoying their March Break and getting some time with your kids.

As my older son is now 9 – very near a double digit change – I am suddenly aware of how quickly the time is passing. My kids are no longer “little”. And so, I am becoming increasingly focused on enjoying all time, but particularly holiday time with my kids, as soon enough, they will not want to be spending their precious holiday time with me.

Over the years, I have noticed that some holidays work better than others for us as a family. Sometimes we are engaged, getting along, and having fun, and some holidays…. Well, there is way more conflict and stress than I would like.

Every family is different, but here is what I have noticed about mine.


Busy = Happy

When we have a plan for the day, even if it’s only for an hour or two of the day, it provides structure to the day, and helps to keep us from getting to the “I’m bored” stage of the day.  (This stage usually involves fights and tears.) You might want to just relax in the garden, or by the pool if you are lucky enough to get away somewhere warm, but sometimes relaxing and doing nothing, can end in disaster. At least with my three.

We recently went on holiday somewhere rather exotic. We spent several days in a hotel by a pool with some friends. We thought the kids would love it, but in fact they were quite difficult, whiny and basically unappreciative. After that, we went out to the “highlands” and did a long hike and other excursions, which I thought might be a nightmare, but were our best days. All 3 kids loved every minute of being outdoors on an adventure.


Ration the Late Nights

We all like to let go of the schedules a little bit on holiday. As a mom, I like a break from the “drill sergeant” role, insisting on getting everyone into bed on time, with teeth brushed, and hair combed! (Don’t ask me why I brush hair before bed, it just seems like a good time to do it when we are in the bathroom brushing teeth!) Also, if you are in a hotel, you don’t always want to eat at 6 pm and then sit in your room with the kids asleep from 8pm on. So you push it a little. But here’s the thing about my kids, and most kids I know: they still wake up when they wake up.

You put them to bed at 7:30pm? Up at 6 am.

You put them to bed at 8pm? Up at 6am.

Bed at 10 pm? Still up at 6 – in fact, perhaps earlier.

So, have a loose, late night on holiday by all means. But don’t keep your kids up until 10 pm every night and expect to have fun during the day.


Manage Expectations

Have a family meeting, or just a conversation over dinner, about plans for the holiday, or the next day if you are on holiday, and try to agree on what you are going to do. This works better than springing plans on the little ones. If the family can agree on a loose plan, it helps everyone follow along, and minimises grumblings. (Note I did not say “eliminate”!)

I want to be clear here. Parents also need to manage expectations. You want to spend the day viewing art? Or sipping coffee at a café? Or reading a book peacefully in your backyard? (I like to do all these things!) Well, that’s just not going to happen so easily. Not with your kids in tow. So, we also need to adjust to the new reality of a “holiday” with kids.


Ideally for me, when I get home from a holiday, I like feeling that we have had a good time as a family, and strengthened our family bonds. Regardless of whether I got to see this or do that, as long as we smiled more than we frowned, I am happy. (Until I have to unpack our bags and do laundry that is….)

Any other tips on happy family holidays? Please share on FB or twitter!

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