Time Apart: When Your Kid is Invited on Their Friend’s Vacation
“Mom, Alex wants me to go on their family vacation this summer. Can I go? PLEASE! I really want to go!”
If you’re like most parents, your mind starts to race through a multitude of questions when you hear a request like this from your child.
- Will my child be safe?
- What about their medication?
- What if they get hurt?
- Will Alex’s parents watch the kids when they swim?
- What if my child can’t sleep?
- How much will this cost?
- Do we have to invite Alex on our next family vacation?
- I don’t know Alex’s dad that well. But he seems nice. What’s he like?
- How can I say no? My child will have a meltdown!
And the list goes on…
Get ready, Mom. You will deal with this scenario some day one way or another. Kids – when they reach the age where they cherish their friends more than family fun – will eventually force you to navigate this topic.
Is Your Child Ready to Go on Another Family’s Vacation?
If When put in this all-too-common parenting situation – whether the ask comes from child-to-child or to you directly from the other parents, be prepared to ask a lot of questions, including:
- Details about travel and anticipated daily costs;
- Sleeping arrangements;
- Is this the first time for the family to bring a child’s friend?
- Why did they extend the offer?
- Are their children good travelers?
- Are they willing to handle special needs your child may have with medicine, behavior and sleep issues, or social skills;
- What are their attitudes towards monitoring and watching children;
You also need to ask yourself several questions:
- Has your child been away from home before and are they ready for this experience?
- Does your child respect other adults?
- Can you afford the costs?
- Does this establish a precedent for your other children (that you’re not ready to set?)
- Are you comfortable with your child’s welfare and safety being overseen by someone other than you?
Bring Out The Best In Your Child
I’ve taken many a child’s friend on family vacations – ranging from a weekend getaway to a bona fide week-plus trip. Those adventures included friends ranging from ten-years-old to high school-age kids. And, each and every time I was happy to have them along.
But each and every time I had long, comprehensive discussion with the other parents to address all of our respective expectations up front.
The “right” vacation friend – in my experience – can bring out the best in your own child. Beyond keeping your own child occupied and happy, a well-selected guest can help your own child understand the specialness of your family and experiences like fun vacations.
Beyond keeping your own child occupied and happy, a well-selected guest can help your own child understand the specialness of your family and experiences like fun vacations.”
Tips When Your Child Wants a Friend to Join Your Family’s Vacation
- Select wisely: A new friend – one you or your child know little about – might not be the best choice to join you on a family vacation. Your child will be happiest if their vacation guest has similar interests, temperament and demeanor. And one more thing: a child who has never been away from their own mom or dad puts your entire family vacation at risk if separation and anxiety issues surface during your family fun time.
- Consider all the costs: What are the additional costs associated with this extra buddy? Will you need to make arrangements for larger accommodations than you normally would? What are all the incremental additional daily costs? And – most importantly – who will pay for those costs?
- Think about your family dynamics: Can your child (and other children) handle an extra guest? It sounds great on the surface – but you need to think through the impact a non-family member will have on all of your children. Will the dynamics change in a negative way? Will your children have difficulties coping as they see your attention given to someone else? Family vacations are not the ideal time for these normal, typical and all-too-common emotions to surface.
When You Need to Say “No”…
This is not a one-size-fits-all topic. Every child and every situation is different. What’s most important is that you feel in control and that all of the important conversations take place between adults.
And if “no” is the appropriate answer, you need to say no…no matter how much your child begs and pleads or holds it against you after the fact. Share your gracious “no” with the other parents. And ask them to share the news (and the reason, if you desire) with their child.
Your own child will surely be disappointed so be prepared to give them space and time to process their frustration. There will be other opportunities in the future – and learning how to navigate their feelings is an important part of growing up.