Travel to make your kids happy – and get them talking to you!

Living under the pressure of family and work commitments can leave us with very little time or opportunity to check in with our older children and teenagers as often as we would like.

One shocking report found that only 25% of older children talk to parents more than once a week about something that matters (Child of Our Time campaign).

Your kids are more self-sufficient and independent as they get older, so it can be a relief that they have started to rely less on you. However, you only need to read the headlines to know that young people and mental health have become inextricably linked worldwide. Especially due an endemic rise in bullying in schools and online.

The insidious nature of cyber bullying makes it even hard for parents, teachers and other grownups to detect and protect against. Unlike physical abuse, bullying involving verbal attacks can leave few external warning signs for parents to pick up on.

Cyber bullying is depressingly common. Around 42% of children experience online abuse, while 35% receive threats online.

Verbal attacks can more harmful long term, leaving young people with crippling self-worth and self-esteem issues that affect their ability to fully access education and social integration.

Taking a break from bullying environment

The good news is that your holiday – or taking them on a business trip – may be the perfect time to tackle some of the tougher issues with them.

You will have the time to spend relaxing and re-engaging with your young person, and they will have much needed opportunity to put some distance between them and their tormentors. Especially if you can invest your full attention in them on holiday and find ways to distract them from electronic gadgets!

When they are little, the fun and games you have with your children on holiday builds their self-esteem – the scientific term is attachment play. It bonds them with you and gives them safe opportunities to explore the world and their own abilities.

The same could easily be said of older children and teenagers. To have your full attention – and clear signs that you are delighted to be in their company – relaxes them. It provides an opportunity to open up, without feeling they are “bothering you”.

It’s well documented that holidays make us feel good – it’s why we take them! That has a physiological as well as psychological basis. Our brain releases important hormones when we relax and enjoy ourselves, including one called oxytocin, which is normally stored well away in our “inner medical cabinet”.

Letting your young person get space to breath, relax and enjoy a rush of positive hormones can only be a good thing! And a platform on which to build a less stressful discussion of difficult subjects.

Let’s face it, sitting your teenager down and firing questions at them at home is likely to lead to an explosion of emotion, rather than a level-headed discussion. A bullied teen may feel even more under attack!

Child mental health experts often engage their patients though play – for teenagers this could mean sharing an electronic games console as they chat.

Letting your young person do an enjoyable activity (preferable outdoors) while you gently probe their mental wellbeing makes common sense. They are far more likely to let their guard down in that situation.

Great “go to” source for bullying chats

You can also use the additional time you have on holiday or travelling to introduce your young person to anti-bullying media materials to see if you can get a conversation started.

This could include the excellent songs and speeches of popstar and anti-bullying advocate Meredith O’Connor. Older kids may remember her from acting roles with Disney and Teen Nick too.

 

Meredith had her nose broken by bullies when she was a child. She didn’t feel able to tell her parents for fear of further reprisals.   The pop star and former model also felt somehow responsible for the way she was being treated and therefore repressed the experience.

Not only is Meredith a great “go to source” for discussions on the topic of bullying, she also represents the perfect illustration of how “distance” can help add clarity and perspective to traumas and problems. It was only when she became famous that she realised how important it is to tackle bullying openly and decisively.

Meredith has contributed a great deal of herself into her role as a leading advocate against bullying and raising awareness of mental health for children around the world.   For more information about Meredith and the great work she is doing globally, please take a minute to watch her UN Speech or TEDx talk.

Merino is a family run business, so we understand how difficult it can be to broach these subjects with children of any age.  For your children and young adults, bullying admissions could well start from the “distance” provided by a much-needed holiday break with you.

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