Many families are now enjoying or looking forward to a relaxing getaway – but, for many working parents, stress can set in before they even join the queue for the airport check-in.
Work pressures, coupled with the thought of suddenly spending 24/7 with a spouse or partner barely seen during the working week, and children requiring constant entertainment, mean holidays are a time when relationships, and the whole family dynamic, come under serious scrutiny.
Past surveys have shown that a worrying number of working parents would rather face the stress of their jobs than the prospect of a family holiday. Around 65% of parents questioned in one consumer poll found a week’s holiday with the children more stressful than working full-time.
Some 57% said they feared that the backlog of work when they returned to their desks would make them more stressed than before they went away.
Priory’s own research underlined this fact, with many working adults feeling the need to be online all the time – even on their family holiday.
A One Poll survey carried out for the Priory Group, which runs the largest network of mental healthcare hospitals and clinics in the country, found well over a quarter of all workers felt compelled to check work emails while on holiday.
One in four of both sexes (28%) felt their office should come on holiday with them on their smartphones, making the email phrase ‘out of office’ obsolete.
Leading consultant psychiatrist Dr Hayley van Zwanenberg says the trend of seeing holidays as a source of stress, and a test of endurance, is something that needs to be addressed.
Dr van Zwanenberg, Clinical Director of the Priory Group’s Wellbeing Centres, said that with mounting pressures in the workplace, and at home, taking time to step off the treadmill to recharge batteries as well as to “re-group” as a family unit away from the pressures of the daily routine was imperative.
“What could be less romantic – or more disheartening to a child wanting to build a sandcastle with their dad – than staring at the top of his head as they ignore you whilst they engage with their mobile phone?
The secret to success is learning how to leave daily routine and regime behind and to try to cherish this time of getting to know one another again. And that can take some effort.”
Within a family holiday, it was fine to grab a few moments of ‘me’ time, she added.
“Despite the importance I place on relaxing together as a family, I do agree that there can be such a thing sometimes as ‘Too Much Togetherness’.
“Even the most close-knit families can overdo togetherness, making it hard for family members to maintain a healthy balance between bonding with each other and just pure relaxation but within one another’s company.”
So, here are five helpful and pragmatic tips to encourage families to get the best out of their summer getaway:
- Recognise that although you may have waited all year for this holiday, it is unrealistic to expect everyone to change their habits from home or switch from routine to relaxation overnight
- Manage expectations and make sure everyone is able to get something out of the holiday
- Make it a rule to flex the rules whilst on holiday
- Suggest a digital detox – giving up all mobile devices (and that goes for working parents as well as social media obsessed teens!)
- if things do go a little wrong remember, it’s not the end of the world and wait to reflect on things on your return.