There is a growing trend for adolescents and young adults to go on holiday with their parents. One survey found that nearly one in four 16- to 25-year-olds now choose to. It’s obvious what’s in it for them: free flights and free beer. But what’s in it for us?
Opinions are sharply divided. Single mum Laura hasn’t been on holiday with her two kids since her youngest was 18 and, although she loves them dearly, she wouldn’t have it any other way: “Having the kids on board would cramp my style. This is my time to have adventures, to be spontaneous and to go wherever I want to. I don’t want to spend my holidays being the carer and worrying whether they’re getting paralytic or falling off a cliff, which I know I would, even though they’re 24 and 22.”
By contrast, Jenny’s ideal holiday is to rent a house in the south of France every year and invite her two sons, two daughters and their partners. “We all have hectic lives so it’s a rare chance for us to live alongside each other as a family again, to have time for proper conversations and just be relaxed with each other. It really feels like we’re all grown-ups together.”
Family holidays generally get easier as soon as the kids get beyond the stage where you have to prise them away from MTV in darkened rooms and worry whether your 14-year-old has disappeared with the waiter. Once teenagers have roughed it round Europe or Asia and you’ve survived the reality check of a middle-aged holiday without kids, you’re both more likely to stop whining and start to appreciate each other’s company.
In fact, family holidays can be a fantastic opportunity to move relationships on to a more even keel, because an unfamiliar environment allows parents and kids to see each other with a fresh eye. Parents often say that when adult kids come home they start sucking their metaphorical thumbs, whereas in a new setting they behave like grown-ups. Roles get reversed in graphic ways: your once shambolic son turns out to have a cool head in a crisis, your daughter is braver and better at Spanish than you, and they always find the best bars.
Of course, there is bound to be tension when everyone is trying their damnedest to have a good time. A holiday just isn’t the same without a good row. And in the first few days it can be difficult for parents to step outside the comfortable role of organiser/worrier/control freak. But if parents can manage even small shifts in attitude, when they get back home the chances are that relationships and mutual expectations will have moved forward for good.
- Keep holidays short: a week or a long weekend is probably enough.
- Don’t attempt to recreate the rose-tinted past: go somewhere completely different.
- Stop organising and start enjoying yourself. If you alter your expectations of your kids, they will change accordingly.
- Don’t expect to do everything together: meeting up at breakfast or in the evening is often enough.