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After the Family Vacation, and Back to the Routine
by Dr. Dale V. Atkins, September 2010

Many parents who work outside of their homes share a sort of ambivalent feeling about returning to work when they return from a family vacation. They like and value the challenges, joys, stimulation, and routine of their work lives yet simultaneously appreciate (and miss) the relaxed, easy going pace of a family vacation (even when the kids are not getting along as well as they would like).

Parents who are reluctant to get back into the routine when Fall begins are not alone. More and more children (young ones, in particular) return from a family vacation, especially when they had their parents' total attention, feeling a bit bereft. Yes, they want to see their school friends and yes, they like their Fall routine, but they are concerned about no longer having the accessibility of a less distracted parent.

When you are fortunate enough to have children who want to be with you, much of the lovely experience of parent-child connection occurs "in the in between" moments of life. When we are ultra busy with our work and school lives, there is little "in between" time. Schedules are tight, often people are late or stressed trying to make appointments, work life carries over to home and BlackBerries vibrate on the dinner table. Many conversations are interrupted by phone calls, text messages, pagers, and e-mails that MUST be immediately addressed. Even watching a movie together can be negatively affected when a family member texts or communicates with someone who is not there.

If you happen to be the "preferred parent" and you are not as much available as you were during vacation, your child may act out, sulk, try to get your attention in any way they can. However, kids are resilient, and they do need to know that the "routine" is what much of life is about. This is why those precious morning reading experiences that you fit in before work and the other "catch as catch can" times are so valuable.

Focused moments with children who "don't want you to go" or who have a tough time adjusting to the Fall routine, are invaluable touchstones for both parents and children. Those touchstones are the building blocks for a strong foundation that teaches everyone in the family that transitions from vacation to "work" are not easy but can be made without falling apart. Allow yourself to reflect on the wonderful moments of the vacation, encouraging and sharing discussion with your children so they also learn that "re-experiencing" a wonderful vacation keeps the spirit happy as well as encourages the continuation of the connection that you all felt when you were all together on vacation.

Encourage your family to have "no tech" time where PDAs, phones, computers, etc. are turned off so you can all experience one another in a meaningful way. Consider your home a sanctuary where you can recharge yourself and establish a healthy balance. On weekends, plan something special for all of you to do together (stopping in the park while doing errands, sans BlackBerry, taking a hike, enjoying an ice cream, visiting friends, a gallery, or a neighborhood art fair). This can be your YOUR MINI VACATION. Solicit ideas from your children for weekend mini vacations anywhere from an hour to a whole day. That way you can all look forward to the quality of family time together that you experienced when "on vacation."

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