Summer vacations are upon us, and if you’re gearing up for a road trip with your tween or a beach trip with a toddler, there inevitably comes a moment when you wonder why the hell you even bothered to leave the house in the first place.
The kids complain, ice you out, or just totally act a fool while you’re left exhausted and resentful. They’re bored, unimpressed, and unappreciative — and it all costs you time, money, and effort.
However, it’s not all bad. Intermixed with the moments of anger or frustration, there are also core memories made and family bonds strengthened. And experts say that all those messy, stressful, tiresome family vacations are actually totally worth it.
Licensed child and teen psychologist, Dr. Erika Velez, recently made a post on TikTok explaining why it’s important for young kids and teens to go on vacations with their parents — and what she’s learned from working firsthand with tons of kids.
She reasoned that, while kids and teens can often exhibit less than desirable behavior on vacations, there are some other key moments that occur on vacation that are very important to them. And it might not be the ones you guess.
Life is busy. More parents are working than ever before, kids are being shuffled from one activity to another, and having dinner together at the table is a pipe dream most nights. Velez knows this, which is why she believes that kids and teens actually love that uninterrupted time on vacation.
“This is the period of time in the year when children are going on vacation with their parents,” Dr. Velez explained. “Whether it’s a little weekend trip or they’re going on extended trips, this is the period of the year that I hear all about their experience on vacation.”
“Despite what behavior might be displayed when they’re on vacation, when they come back and report about it they genuinely love being on vacation with their parents,” Dr. Velez said. “The things that they mention, especially the younger ones, have more to do with the time that they spend with their parents.”
She explained that being in such close proximity, even sharing a hotel room with their parents, can make the experience special for kids.
“Something about hotel rooms, they just love hotel rooms," she added.
Dr. Velez continues on, noting that getting one-on-one time with parents through meals while they’re on vacation also means a lot to them.
“There is a chance that throughout the school year that they’re not having breakfast, lunch and dinner with their parents, and now they are,” she said.
Velez swears that several of her child and teenage clients do express enjoying a family vacation despite some complaints here and there.
“I do hear them say, like, ‘oh it was too long’ or ‘I didn’t like this or this or that,’” she explained.
The problem lies in the fact that this may not be inherently expressed, leaving parents to wonder if their kid is actually having a good time.
“Especially for parents of teenagers, they really wonder, like, ‘what’s the point of bringing these kids along on this vacation? They’re complaining the entire time',” she said.
Despite the gripes that kids make during the duration of a vacation, Dr. Velez says it’s the good memories that will last.
“You’d be surprised at some of the positive feedback that I also get,” she said, “despite what’s happening on the outside. On the inside, when they share it, these are memories and core memories that you are creating with your family.”
Several parents commented on Velez’s video, sharing their own anecdotes of traveling with kids.
“My 16yo always looks so miserable on vacation, but he also always asks when we’re going on another one, so I feel like he enjoys our trips together,” one user wrote.
Another wrote, “I have 2 teenagers (b&g) who ignore me and each other at home but laugh and play board games on Vacay🤷🏽♀️💖”
One TikTok user said, “So true. I remember specifically when I was about 14 being on a vacation with my parents and re-realizing ‘Oh my dad is actually really funny.’”
One user wrote that while a vacation was financially out of reach this year, she improvised.
“We can’t afford to go vacation this year, so I’ve been letting my son sleep in our room and fall asleep watching movies. 🥰” she wrote. Ok, that is so adorable!
In a follow-up video, Dr. Velez touches on this notion, saying that the destination or money spent on the vacation doesn’t really matter. It’s rather the uninterrupted quality time between family members that makes the difference.
“You don’t need to have a big vacation to have these moments ... if you don’t have the time to go on a vacation with your family, if you can’t afford a vacation ... it doesn’t mean you’re not able to nourish and create these moments,” she explains.
If a vacation isn’t in the cards this summer, try a “Yes Day” or even just cooking a meal at home together and watching a movie, let your kid pick an activity they enjoy and really be present in the moment with them. It can make a world of difference.