Anne Robert’s guest post add important information to my multiple earlier posts on challenges for blended families.
Taking a Vacation as a Blended Family
Blending families is never easy, and many couples (and their children) need support and mediation in order to overcome their vision of what the ‘perfect family’ looks like and accept the reality of their own perfect, often unconventional, family unit. The difficulties of perceived perfection versus the reality of family life comes to the fore more than ever when it comes to planning the annual family vacation: conventional families (Two parents, two kids- usually one boy and one girl) driving for miles with huge smiles then lovingly building sandcastles together are thrust upon us by the media at this time of year, whilst vacation companies are selling their packages, meaning that it can be hard to accept that anything which deviates from this largely unrealistic norm could still be the perfect vacation.
However you can have the perfect vacation as a blended family: you simply need to talk, and continue to talk, to each member of the family in order to ensure that all their needs are being met, and to have realistic expectations about what you want to achieve before, during, and after your vacation. Here are some hints and tips for taking a vacation as a blended family:
Keep it Short and Simple
If you are a newly blended family then the likelihood is you are all still getting to know each other, and feel a little weary of each other, and three weeks trapped in a car together travelling coast to coast isn’t going to make that any better. Keeping your vacation short and simple the first time you go away as a blended family is great advice because (if something goes wrong and someone is unhappy or resentful) you have an end date in mind and your adventure will soon be over. Think about a short camping trip, a 3 day cruise or a skiing weekend. A vacation that involves a daily activity is also a great idea, as it gives you a shared interest and something easy to talk about if conversation runs dry. Beware of choosing an activity that only half of the blended family can enjoy though: a ski trip for two kids that are experts on the slopes and two that have never skied before is only going to build resentment and increase feelings of separation in the family.
Take Care of the Practicalities
There are many practicalities involved in taking a vacation as a blended family. Both sets of parents need to be consulted to ensure they are happy with the proposed vacation plans and, if your trip will take you overseas, both biological parents will need to complete and send passport and visa applications (depending on where you are travelling to) which may well require additional scheduling. The family that insures together stays together (said no person ever) but it is also important to ensure that every member of the family has travel insurance, ideally on one group policy for ease and convenience. This becomes especially important if anyone in your party has a pre-existing medical condition that they may well require treatment for during the family vacation. Other less important, but still necessary practicalities involve ensuring that each member of the family has the clothes and equipment they will require for the vacation (swimwear or a skiing jacket, for example). Even if you are the non-resident parent it is important you plan for this, and purchase any vacation specific clothing and equipment before you travel, to avoid heartache and resentment when you arrive.
If your first vacation as a blended family is a disaster then it can be tempting to take separate family vacations instead. Don’t. This will only build barriers and stop your families from blending and integrating properly. Stay together, book a different vacation destination for your next trip, and try again. If your kids are old enough then try talking about what went wrong on the last trip and each pledge to do one thing differently this time: keeping the lines of communication open is key to building relationships. For younger children, pack their days with activities they can enjoy both together and independently: they’ll be too busy having fun to remember their resentments. Taking a vacation as a blended family can seem like hard work but, when you finally see all of your family smiling and having fun together, that hard work will be worth it.