Planning a family vacation this summer? Don’t forget to pack behavior!

My child’s vacation packing list: swimsuits, sunscreen, water shoes, toys, games, snacks, a plan to keep my child’s “switch” on!?

As we enter into the warm months, many families are planning a vacation, staycation, cabin trip, camping trip, or road trip for a relaxing getaway. But how relaxing is that time away for us parents, really? Our children are out of their regular, familiar routine. Sleep is also often affected. We let our children’s bedtimes slide a bit later than we would if we were home. We often feed our children less healthy snacks and eat out more when we are on vacation. We pack more into a day to get our money’s worth of the time we spend away from home, leaving them overly exhausted, tired, and hungry at the end of a vacation day.

For these reasons and many more, your child’s “switch” may be dim more than on or off while on a family trip. When our switches are dim, things that don’t typically stress us out may do so. When our switches are dim, we are generally less tolerant of the world and its everyday stressors. We are less likely to use our skills or coping strategies and more likely to resort to ineffective ways of managing our stress when our switch is dim. Our frontal lobe is on high alert, waiting to protect us if we experience too much stress, or stress beyond the scope of our coping strategies.

Perhaps more importantly, your switch as the parent may be more dim while away on vacation. Maybe you don’t sleep as well when you aren’t in your own bed. Maybe your children don’t sleep as well so your sleep is subsequently impacted. Your diet is different. You often don’t get the luxury of space to step away from your children to get your switch back on. You may have well-meaning family members that intervene to try to “help” manage your child and his/her behavior. What are some of the reasons your switch may be dim on vacation?

If you’ve learned about our light switch technique, you’ll know that the first thing to do when someone’s switch has turned off, isn’t to fix the problem that caused our switch to go off in the first place (which is the natural instinct). The first thing we recommend is to allow the switch to come back on (whether it is your switch or your child’s switch that has turned off to protect). The switch wasn’t meant to stay off for long periods of time. For many parents learning this approach, the first thing you’ll notice is that you are aware of when your switch, or your child’s switch, is on or off more. You may not be able to do anything differently at first when the switch is off, but to be aware of the need to do something differently is a first step. We are more likely to make rational decisions and behave in ways that make us proud when our switch is on. We are less likely to make irrational decisions, say things we’ll regret, or handle things in a way we aren’t proud of when we try to fix the problem with our switch off. Pause. Breathe. Step away. Do what ever you can do to get your switch back on before attempting to solve the problem that caused it to go off in the first place.

So be prepared for your switch, as well as your child’s switch, to be more dim and to turn off more often while on vacation.

How often do you think about packing your child’s good behavior when packing for a trip? Have you considered things you can do before leaving for vacation to prepare your child for success while on vacation? One family I have served this past year called us for in-home behavioral consultation about a week before a trip to Disney. They watched our parent workshop OnDemand, “Pretend You Are a Light Switch®” before leaving, and I was able to speak with them on the phone with vacation success tips before they left. We didn’t have time to schedule a visit before their vacation, but the phone call and education about their children’s “switches” (and their own) before leaving resulted in their best family vacation yet!

Don’t forget, you can schedule your introductory, assessment phone consultation to discuss how we can help protect your investment in your family vacation before you leave!

My best,

Jamie Waldvogel, MS, BCBA

Founder/CEO, Behave Your Best, LLC

The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute a behavioral consultation relationship between Behave Your Best, LLC and the reader. The information contained herein is not offered as behavioral consultation and should not be construed as behavioral consultation.