By Christine Murray, HRI Director

“Novelty and familiarity, therefore, meant not only a relaxation of normal responsibilities, but also new activities and adventures with more freedom and independence, all within a safe and socially stable environment.” (Hilbrecht, Shaw, Delamere, & Havitz, 2008, p. 560)

This week, we’re exploring ways to make the most of your family’s fun times together, and in particular, we’re looking at three important components of family vacations for children based on research by Margo Hillbrecht and her colleagues. Yesterday, we looked at ways to maximize fun with your family by setting boundaries to protect against the things that often block fun in families. Today, we’re focusing on the 2nd meaningful aspect of family vacations for children that Hillbrecht and her colleagues identified: novelty and familiarity.

Based on this research, it turns out that trying new things within the comfort and familiarity of your family makes a huge impact for children, and hopefully for the adults in the family as well! Vacations–and even staycations and new experiences in your own hometown–offer opportunities for families to step outside of their normal routines and activities and try out new ways to connect and have fun.

Children feeling safe to explore new experiences and environments in the context of stable, familiar relationships with their parents is what secure attachments between parents and children are all about! Summertime–and family vacations in particular–are a great time to do activities as a family that do two important things at once. First, new activities help family members grow and expand their horizons. Second, doing these new activities helps to further strengthen family bonds.

Throughout this summer, and especially when you travel with your family, challenge yourselves to step outside your comfort zone and try new and different things. Try eating a different kind of food together. Explore a new park or hiking trail. Test out a new activity that you’ve never tried–like kayaking, paragliding, ziplining, or doing something artistic together.

Adults, as you and your family step into new experiences, remember what a powerful role model you can be through how open you are to new things! Try to be open and positive. Show your kids that it’s okay to be uncomfortable when trying to new things, but to do them anyway. Help them to see that it’s normal to feel a little awkward when you’re trying something for the first time, and it’s okay to not be an “expert” when you’re just learning something new.

This summer, make a point to step outside your and your family’s comfort zone to try new things. Remember that this may be one of the best ways to make a lasting impact on your children, all while growing and bonding together at the same time!

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