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How to Create Special Family Vacations for the Sandwich Generation

Aug 18, 2007
"Summertime and the living is easy" - so said George and Ira Gershwin. There's just something about the warm sun, blue skies and late evenings that makes us want to ease up, have a change of scenery and leave our day-to-day work world behind.

This summer, even with the high price of gas, Americans are taking to the roads, hopping planes, and boarding trains for family vacations. As a member of the Sandwich Generation, you may feel crushed by your responsibilities all year round and see this as your best chance to rejuvenate. But how can you, when the demands on your time and energy are still there? Here are five tips to help you plan and enjoy your summer vacation, wherever it may take you.

1. You know yourself and your family best. Do you like to create and maintain family rituals? If so, you may want to return to the same vacation spot year after year, enjoying the familiar surroundings and activities. Or, if you prefer to explore different places and learn new skills, you can consider all kinds of innovative vacations together. Does your family enjoy 'chilling out' and relaxing or staying busy and active? What is most gratifying - the excitement of the city, the expansiveness of the beach, the majesty of the mountains or the serenity of your own backyard? Taking your family's particular preferences into account will make your time together even more meaningful for everyone.

2. Remind yourself to be realistic about your expectations for the vacation and be willing to make compromises. Don't think that, all of a sudden, family togetherness will be a priority for everyone. You may find that each of you will enjoy spending some time alone, doing want ever you want. Just as your family celebrations and holidays often come with their own set of challenges, vacations will not magically solve long-standing problems in your close relationships. View your trip as one step in a series and accept that it will have difficult moments as well as good times.

3. Look at your individual situation and decide what will work for you. If you need some time by yourself, fit that into your plans right from the beginning. If you want to reconnect with your teenagers, design outings that will appeal to both of you. If your parents are up to it, plan an intergenerational vacation. Your children will benefit from spending quality time with their grandparents and it will also give you the opportunity for some free time for yourself.

4. With families spread across the nation, many find that a summer family reunion provides an opportunity to reconnect. It's a different experience than seeing each other briefly at weddings, holidays or funerals. Getting everyone together in a vacation setting gives you the chance to catch up without time distractions. It takes advance planning but the rewards can be great for the whole family. You may rediscover your cousin's keen sense of humor, appreciate your great aunt's wisdom or delight in your young nephew. Perhaps your brother has grown up and will pitch in to help you, now that he sees how hard it is to take care of your parents.

5. Going on vacation is like investing in your emotional bank account. You generate vivid and positive memories that you can draw on when you need them. "Whenever I feel stressed out, I take a deep breath and remember how relaxed I was when we spent time at the beach," Beth related. "The kids were free to run around in the sand, play in the water and make as much noise as they wanted without me having to shush them. And my parents were so content, just sitting in the sun and being a part of the family fun. It makes me smile just to visualize that scene in my head."

If you haven't already done so, now is the time to make plans for your own special family time - even if it's only a few days camping or some weekend activities at a local lake. Enjoy the summertime as you create memories to carry you and your family through the rest of the year.

(c) 2007, Her Mentor Center
About the Author
Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D. and Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. are founders of http://www.HerMentorCenter.com, a website for midlife women and http://www.NourishingRelationships.Blogspot.com, a Blog for the Sandwich Generation. They are authors of a forthcoming book about Baby Boomers and family relationships. They offer free newsletter Stepping Stones.
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