As my children’s midwinter vacation approaches, I have been struggling to decide where to take them. The truth is, I struggle with this decision every year. Every year, I promise myself that I’m going to arrange a low-key midwinter getaway, until my children come home and discuss their friends’ plans. So, if until then I was planning a quick two-day getaway to a water park, I begin to rethink my decision. Once my children describe how their friends will be going to Mexico, Orlando, and Miami, I worry that they will feel deprived if I don’t arrange a real vacation for them as well. When I was a child, we didn’t do much during midwinter break, which made me feel resentful. I believe children should not be spoiled and expect elaborate vacations. So, I guess my question is, where do I draw the line between raising unspoiled children and preventing them from feeling deprived in comparison to their friends?
Thanks for sending in a question that so many parents struggle with. As parents, we want to shower our children with everything they can dream of while at the same time being mindful of not raising spoiled and ungrateful young individuals. That said, I’d like to validate your experiences as a child. I’m sure that it was difficult for you to stay home while your friends experienced enjoyable midwinter getaways. I believe that it is important for you to take your experiences as a child and utilize them as a springboard as you make decisions related to midwinter vacation. It is important for you to create positive memories for your children, so they don’t experience feelings of resentment. I believe it is important to listen to your children as they verbalize their friends’ midwinter plans and take them into consideration. At the same time, your job is to build your children’s self-esteem so they don’t feel crushed if their friends engage in activities that you cannot afford or don’t believe are necessary. Help your children understand that what makes your family whole doesn’t boil down to experiences on tropical islands. Empower them to believe that the warmth and love that you provide for them create feelings of cohesiveness regardless of the setting. In order to facilitate this, create game nights and engage in fun experiences such as a pancake breakfast for dinner on regular school nights. Teach them that happiness is an inner experience so they can copy and paste these experiences regardless of what life throws at them when they are adults. Remind them that “some people are so poor, all they have is money.” That said, if you can afford to take your children to a sunnier climate, try to do so once in two years. This will provide them with the change of scenery and the renewal of energy both children and adults crave. At the same time, it is important to reduce their high expectations by avoiding these over-the-top vacations every midwinter break. On alternate years, during midwinter vacation, help them find the joy in lounging around the house. Do this by creating scavenger hunts in the house, making delicious hot cocoa, and playing musical chairs. Create excitement around driving to a water park that is two hours away by verbalizing how lucky you are to spend this precious time with them. Turn on the music and sing along with them and play I Spy while you are stuck in traffic. Teach them to enjoy the moment. Once you get there, be a sport and join them on ridiculously high-water slides and yell with them as you experience the terrifying drops. In a nutshell, be there with them to boost their feelings of joy.
You can raise unspoiled children by reducing their expectations for elaborate vacations year after year. At the same time, you can take them to similar spots their friends go to sporadically, so they don’t feel compromised in relation to their friends. Last but not least, teach them the true meaning of happiness by creating cohesive family experiences throughout the year. Have a happy and meaningful vacation!