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How to Survive a Family Holiday

by Lisa Turner(more info)

listed in holistic psychotherapy, originally published in issue 169 - April 2010

Recipe for Disaster

  • 4 - 6 individuals who are related by blood or marriage;
  • An unfamiliar environment, with little privacy, and insufficient bathrooms;
  • Unresolved emotions, resentment, anger and guilt are best;
  • Optional – several small over excited children.
Family playing Monopoly


Place individuals in an unfamiliar environment. Ensure that the food is unfamiliar, and arrives at unusual times. Restrict privacy, deprive of sleep at times and ensure bathroom facilities and other basic amenities are in short supply.

Set the family group tasks, such as navigation, packing, liaising with the locals.

Ensure the family goes on 'outings' where specific challenges are set, such as visiting an attraction that the majority of the family have no interest in.

Make one member solely responsible for financial control. The rest of the family must pester that member to increase spending, and blame that member for both 'being mean' and going over budget later.

Make one member solely responsible for keeping the peace.

Raise expectations to unreasonable levels. Ensure everyone is aware that this must be 'the perfect holiday' to really increase the tension.

Gently stir and agitate to raise emotional tensions and strain for several days. Slowly add small misunderstandings.

Keep the family unit contained until breaking point when someone says something they shouldn't and a full blown row and walk out ensues.

Serve hot with anger, frustration and a dash of disappointment.

Ok – so that's how NOT to do it this Summer

Holidays are an opportunity to both rest and stimulate the mind and body. They also offer a fantastic opportunity for reconnecting and strengthening relationships within the family. Unfortunately all too often they can become a source of stress in themselves.

Here are some tips on how to ensure your family holiday is the happy time you all want it to be:

1. Lay down the ground rules for the holiday
Share out responsibilities for the holiday, get everyone involved. Even the young children can be given some responsibility, even if it's only for packing their own toys and books.

Get everyone to agree who's going to be in charge of what? Let each family member choose something to be solely responsible for. Make sure everyone has a little task to do. Get everyone to take responsibility for sticking to the budget.

Agree what the total or daily spending will be and then make sure everyone sticks to it.

2. Ban blame. Turn inconvenience into adventure
When things go wrong, and they always will, don't blame anyone, not other family members, not the staff, or holiday company, not the weather or God or whoever. An adventure is an inconvenience put into perspective. And inconvenience is an adventure taken out of perspective.

3. The 5 most powerful words
The 5 most powerful words in any relationship are "I'm not ok with that". If someone does something you don't like, tell them by saying: "When you (state their behaviour), I feel (state how you feel)" or, more simply "I'm not Ok with that". There can be no arguments it makes it really clear and simple, and removes the emotional charge out of the discussion.

4. Ask for what you want and need
We all have needs. A need to feel loved, cherished, respected, listened to, or simply a need for a little help in the kitchen etc. Recognize what yours are and state them. "I have a need for.....". Then state what you would like them to do to meet that need. Be specific about the behaviour.

5. Ask what others need
When you see someone acting out a destructive behaviour, recognize that it is an attempt to get a need met. Rather than addressing the behaviour, discover what the need is and try to meet it. The behaviour will then disappear. If you can't meet the need, then clearly state that their behaviour is not OK with you.

6. Recognize that all behaviour has a positive intention
Whatever someone is doing or saying, the underlying intention is positive and it's usually to get a need met. The annoying thing that person is doing – they're not actually doing it to annoy you. They are just doing it, and it happens to annoy you. They might be unaware that it annoys you, or might even be trying to please you!

7. Have a code word
Have a little code word to lighten the mood when things or people get stressed. Often when one person gets stressed, they act out negative patterns which trigger destructive behaviours in others. Decide on a 'de-stress' code word or phrase before you go away. When anyone notices any other person getting stressed, say the code word and then follow it up with the question "Ok - What do you need?" This really works best if the code word is a ludicrous and humorous one - something that the whole family found funny at some time. For example our family used the word "luxury!!" as in the Monty Python sketch of northern people complaining about the youth of today.

Why this works. The code word will fire off an 'anchor' that takes the stressed person back to a happy time. It will break their negative state. Then following it up with the question - "what do you need?" addresses the reason they are feeling stressed.

8. Take ownership of your own emotions
No one can make you feel anything. All too often in our family relationships we swap the responsibility of our emotions round. We feel it's up to us to make them feel good and up to them to make us feel good. But it's so much more empowering and freeing if you take responsibility for your own emotions, and give them back responsibility for theirs.

9. Connect at a spiritual level
Remember, even your family are spiritual beings, whom you have chosen to 'play' with in this lifetime. All the dramas are only acted out as a kind of play for you to learn and grow from. Connect at a soul level; you see past their faults. Gaze right into your family's soul and allow them to see yours. Send unconditional love and it's even possible to see them change and soften before your eyes. Imagine an infinite source of love coming in through the top of your head and coming out of your heart to them. People who have done this report an almost instant change of mood and behaviour.

10. Have Fun
Don't try to make it 'the perfect holiday' or to expect it to be perfect. Instead make it nice, but keep it real and relaxed. There is a saying "expect anything and everything seems like nothing. Expect nothing and anything seems like everything," so manage expectations.

Most importantly, have fun. The best times happen when everyone is relaxed and not trying too hard; then serendipity can sneak in and magic really can happen.


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About Lisa Turner

Lisa Turner PhD Certified NLP Trainer is the Founder of Psycademy – Leaders in Human Evolution. She may be contacted on Tel: 0845 468 1501;
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