It's a sad fact that even the best vacation must end, and whether we want it to or not. Vacation, by definition, is suspending the usual activity. Eventually, the usual has to be reinstated; one has to return to reality.
As much as I enjoy holding out for every second of unreality, denying the end until is smacks me in the face, I find that my kids do better when they know what is coming. If they know they have just a few more days, and when we get home it's back to the usual routine, we can all plan accordingly, on both a physical and emotional level.
The grand plan
This is particularly important for my middle child, Woody. I've described him before as my little control freak, and nothing has changed. He likes to know what is coming next, what's for dinner and how many towels the hotel will have and exactly what time we'll be at our destination, to the second, and so on. As much as I want to help him learn to live in the moment and just relax, I also have to respect his inherent nature. I have a touch of that controlling nature myself -- but I also have 30 plus years on him in learning how to manage it. Plus I've planned the whole vacation so I know full well what is supposed to happen next.
Alfs and Sunshine, though a little less anxious in this sense, also do better when they have some sense of the general plan. While they don't necessarily need or want specifics, they do like information. For all my kids (and me!), it's that illusion of control so many of cultivate, just to different degrees.
Slow return to routine
Some of the things I do to help my kids make the transition back to real life include:
- A few days in advance of our return home, I start to bring home up a little more. It's gentle reminders that we have a limited amount of time left, and let's make the most of it.
- I talk positively about going home, even as I talk about what a nice time we have had - and even if I am really not ready to go home yet myself! If I'm conveying grumpy feelings about home, the kids will, too.
- I look at sleep and wake routines and try to take steps to get them back toward (if not to) usual. If the kids have been going to bed late for a week a sudden early bedtime just isn't going to fly.
- I try to have already planned something really fun in the first week or two after we get home. This gives them something to look forward to in addition to "just" being home -- and sends the message that fun doesn't only happen on vacation.
- We don't leave the vacation completely behind when we arrive home. I have the kids help me put together the family photo album (blurb.com is currently my favorite site for this).
However short or long your trip, spending as much time thinking about the end as well as the beginning can help your kids make the transition more smoothly. And I admit, it even helps me.