Looking back on your own childhood, some of your fondest memories most likely include your yearly family vacation, there didn’t even have to be something spectacular about the getaway for it to be such a special part of your life.
Maybe there was an ice cream parlor you always visited where you shared Rocky Road with your dad, or perhaps there was a lake you and your sister enjoyed racing into.
Apparently, these unforgettable moments have a bigger psychological impact on lifelong happiness than we thought.
Research now shows that everything from anticipating a family vacation as a child, to playing with your kids during your trip gives them more than money could buy.
Journal of Consumer Research reported:
“Experiments examining actual gift exchanges in real-life relationships reveal that experiential gifts produce greater improvements in relationship strength than material gifts, regardless of whether the gift giver and recipient consume the gift together.”
Experiential gifts are the ones where you give a trip to an amusement park or a camping weekend to your son, in comparison to a material gift of a toy or outfit.
Don’t get me wrong, material gifts are nice every now and then, but the true investment would be in the excursions where you strengthen a relationship with someone you care about.
World renown relational psychoanalyst Oliver James said, “Family holidays are valued by children, both in the moment and for long afterward in their memory,” according to the Telegraph.
Oliver points out that it’s all about the “moments of time in which your interests are genuinely taken into account.”
We may think that we are always doing this with our children, that we look into their hobbies, and points of interest.
Surprisingly, that is not the case in most parent and child relationships. With modern schedules, where every member of the family has their own agenda, most of life is about making those itineraries compatible.
The Telegraph reported on some statistics that are sure to shock you:
- Two-thirds of conversations between parent and child are about daily routine
- 65 percent of parents say they only play occasionally with their children.
- One in six fathers say they do not know how to play with their child and a third say they simply don’t have the time to play.
- Only a quarter of children say they talk to parents more than once a week about something that matters
The reason family vacations hone in on genuine interests is because while away you switch gears into play mode.
When you are at the beach and your kids ask you to splash in the waves, you can say “Yes, I would love to!”, rather than “Sorry kids, I have to get the laundry done before soccer practice.”
Simply splashing in the waves with your children is invoking “attachment play”, which is crucial for bonding. It is giving your full attention to your kids, letting them know the relationship matters.
The Telegraph reported:
“Really using the brain’s PLAY and SEEKING systems well, as often happens on a family holiday, brings about brain growth and maturation in the frontal lobes, the very part of the brain involved in cognitive functioning, social intelligence and well-focused, goal-directed behaviors that may last a lifetime”
Who wouldn’t want that for their kids?
The “play system” is just what it sounds like, where you are doing an interactive activity with your child with no outside distraction.
In contrast, the “seeking system” is where you explore with your children, finding new stimuli together that you can discuss.
Child psychotherapist Dr. Margot Sunderland speaks on how these new environment have been shown to be associated with a higher IQ in children by building on their “social, physical, cognitive, and sensory interaction”, reports Parents.
While exploring, it would be additionally beneficial to go to an open space that is grassy and full of life in nature.
Studies seem to point to that going out with your family in these types of areas “calms the body, lowering blood pressure and stress hormone levels and even cholesterol”, according to the Telegraph.
Give your family the break together that you deserve, and spend some quality time together.
Focus on the individual needs and interests of each family member, letting them know they are valued and that you delight in them.
Remember, you don’t have to save a fortune to take the kids on a five-star Bahamas vacation for it to be meaningful.
Even if you go to a camping ground a few towns away, or spend a weekend wherever you can get a deal, you will still be adding to the lifelong health and mental well-being of your family.
(h/t Mommy Underground)