Think about your favorite childhood memories. Is it visiting grandparents, going fishing with dad, camping in a tent or visiting a theme park? Chances are it's something along those lines and you know what? They all are family vacations. The great family vacation is a powerful tradition in the US and, more than enjoying some time away from home, it's been a keystone in the lives of children for decades. In 2015 though that is sadly changing and the ramifications of a fundamental shift in how we relax (or not) is having severe consequences for our children that needs to be addressed and addressed fast.
A recent study by the U.S. Travel Association surveyed America's children to see what effects their parents' work habits were having on their lives, and the results were shocking.
Key findings from the report include:
- Parents may be surprised to learn just how closely their children are paying attention. Six in seven kids see their parents bringing work stress home. Further, 75 percent of children say their parent doesn't fully disconnect from work at home.
- While the vast majority of kids (86%) are understanding of work interruptions, six in ten (59%) kids say they are upset by their parents' lack of presence, a disappointment only sharpened by the fact that 82 percent of kids want their parents involved in their lives.
- The solution for quality time is simple. Sixty-one percent of kids say the way they want to spend quality time with their parents is on vacation.
Vacation is important
As you can see from these results, kids don't only want more family time, they're basically begging for it. The best way to maximize time together as a family is of course by taking a family vacation. It doesn't have to be an epic, National Lampoons-style adventure either; something truly is better than nothing in this case. I guarantee that there is something within a three-hour drive of where you live. A place where you can go for a weekend or longer to disconnect, decompress and get to know each other better as a family. I live in the Washington, DC region and we're lucky, there are any number of affordable family friendly escapes throughout the area. From Williamsburg, Virginia to Hershey, Pennsylvania and even further afield in North Carolina, there are plenty of destinations where families can go and just have fun. It's not just going of course that's important, it's what you actually do during the trip that matters.
Smartphones and fast WiFi networks means that we can always be connected wherever we go. That's a wonderful luxury, but it also guarantees that almost none of us ever truly get away from the office. Since when did leaving at 5pm and not responding to messages until 9am the next day become an act of defiance? The American work ethic is a wonderful thing, but modern technology has created a monster of productivity and our children are unfortunately paying the price. So when you take that important vacation, disconnect. Don't check your email every 5 minutes and don't let apps take the place of real and meaningful quality time with your kids.
Lessons for the future
By taking family vacations and spending quality time with your kids, you're not just helping them today, you're teaching them values and lessons that will shape their lives. You are teaching them the value of enjoying a work-life balance and how life is about the experiences and the people we love more than it is our jobs and the trinkets we own. When the history of the early 21st century is written, we don't want historians to lament the creation of a lost generation. No, we want this generation and all others that follow to excel, to become better people than we are and to value what is truly important in life. That can only start with today's parents though and it can only happen through leading by example.
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