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with Tarra Bates-Duford, Ph.D., MFT

Families & Vacations

Often throughout the year we are inundated with several different responsibilities, often simultaneously and even conflicting at times. Adults often endure the daily grind of having to work, provide for children, and manage household expenses and chores, medical emergencies, etc. Unfortunately, our small people also experience daily stressors such as school, chores, socializing, fitting in, looking after a younger sibling, etc. Therefore, the thought of a well-planned vacation is not only deserving but highly desirable. Taking a family vacation can serve a lot of important functions in the life of a family.

Here are few reasons vacations are important to family life and functioning:

  • Taking family vacations allows families to spend quality time together- Throughout most of the year parents as well as children are regularly and consistently on the go. There are work and school obligations, financial responsibilities, sports, and other activities There is often very little time to sit down, engage in family activities, share conversations, and really understand the changes that are going on in the lives of both parents and children. Although, most families assume they have the weekend “to catch up”, there is never enough time to fully learn and understand the changes going on in the lives of another person. Most conversations that occur over the weekend are superficial as they are usually quick, and in passing. Family vacations have the unique ability to pull families together, creating a shared environment that almost forces them to talk, share, and build new experiences together.
  • Vacationing together enhances the bond between family members- Changing the family environment from that of the family home can have a significant effect on the manner in which family members engage as well as interact with each other. Allowing for a change in environment levels the playing field so to speak, creating a mutual environment that allows communication to flow freely in both directions. In a fun family friendly environment tension is reduced creating an environment that is conducive for learning new things, and promoting relaxation. Parents often desire the opportunity and time to reconnect with their children during a vacation.
  • Creating new and exciting memories- Vacationing as a family allows both adults and children to put aside their daily routines as it is meant to serve as a reprieve from the everyday hustle and bustle. Vacations are intended for families to have fun without concern for obligations and responsibilities that will surely await them at home. As a reminder even if a family vacations together their processing and experiences during the vacation will be unique and individual to the person experiencing it. Who can forget a child’s first trip to Disneyland, the look of awe and amazement in his or her eyes and they gaze at the Disney characters and the rides, it is most likely something that adults no longer feel, but seeing it through the eyes of a child is both amazing and infectious.
  • Vacations can have an educational value- Vacationing in new and exotic places can provide educational opportunities for both children and adults. Family vacations held in exotic places can give families a hands-on experience in a totally different way of life, culture, food, etc. Even if a family vacation does not take place in an exotic area, local vacationing sites can be just as educational, i.e., local beaches can open up a great opportunity for parents to learn and educate children about the sea, vegetation, plants, etc.

There are several benefits to vacationing as a family, however, as adults and parents we all must remain vigilant about some of the dangers that can occur on vacation. Family vacations are supposed to be fun, but we also must remember to stay safe. I am sure we all have heard about the recent issues of children becoming separated from their parents, getting hurt, and unfortunately even killed. As a resident of Orlando, FL we have unfortunately seen out fair share of children being hurt or killed on vacation with family. One of the most recent incident involved a young child getting away from his mother and getting into the gorilla enclosure. Children do not have the capacity to employ consequential thinking, therefore, they behave impulsively acting upon any and every impulse that arises. In this particular case the child was rescued without any serious injury to the child, however the gorilla was killed to ensure the child’s safety.

Another recent incident involving a small child on vacation occurred when an alligator latched hold of a child dragging him into a lake by an alligator at a Walt Disney World resort. The boy was playing along of the shore of the water when the alligator snatched him and dragged him into the lake, his family was sitting near the water after watching a movie on the beach. This particular incident did not end as well as the first incident. The child drowned as a result of being held underwater for an extended period of time.

Here are a few tips to keep your child safe while on vacation:

  1. Make sure your child knows your cell phone number
  2. Every family member should carry a current photo of the entire family in their pocket or backpack in case a photo is needed.
  3. Carry a few hotel business cards with you, this is especially important for children as they may not know the name of the hotel they are staying at.
  4. Have a plan for children if they should become lost or separated from parents. The plan should include steps to let parents know where they are, locating a safe place to wait, and reaching out to a police officer for help.
  5. Dressing small children in bright colors is also a great way of spotting your child in a large crowd.
  6. Encourage children to look at what each other is wearing and make a game out of it. As children to look at each other then turn their backs and describe what their sibling and parent is wearing based upon memory.

Remember, vacations are meant to create happy memories not somber memories so be safe, vigilant, and include safety precautions in every family vacation.

Families & Vacations

Tarra Bates-Duford, Ph.D., MFT

My name is Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford PhD, MFT, CRS, CMFSW, BCPC I have a PhD in forensic Psychology specializing in familial dysfunctions and traumatic experience. I work with individuals and families struggling with familial dysfunctions, trauma, rape, and incest. I also have a masters in Marriage, Couples, & Family therapy. I am a certified relationship specialist with American Psychotherapy Association (#15221). I have more than 15 years in the field of mental health, relationships, and behavioral sciences.

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APA Reference
Bates-Duford, T. (2016). Families & Vacations. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 3, 2020, from


Last updated: 16 Jun 2016
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