Top 10 Tips for Surviving Family Vacations

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Share that school’s out, everyone wants to play and go on vacation. Having a flashlight and flares for a car trip is a great idea. So is a travel bag of games, songs and activities.

But what about a repair kit for family feelings? Or a road map to harmony? Even a dream vacation in an idyllic setting can become a nightmare if the kids are at each other’s throats. Here are some practical parenting tools to help bring out the best in everybody:

1. Remember the big picture. A family vacation can be a perfect opportunity to create fun and lasting memories. Consider making learning, loving and living in the moment your highest priority, rather than getting to a particular destination.

2. Share appreciations and praise. Families do best when everybody (including adults) feels appreciated. Notice the good things and praise your kids, aiming for at least a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative statements.

3. Don’t relax the rules and routines too much. Younger children can’t “sleep in,” so later or irregular bedtimes can create sleep deprivation and irritability. Kids thrive when parents provide lots of love and warmth, but also firmness and structure.

4. Give lots of time to blow off steam. Being away can be exciting but also stressful. Join in and help your children express themselves physically and emotionally through exercise and activities.

5. Provide practice at making decisions. If done in moderation, handing over some decisions to the kids is a terrific way for them to learn planning and thinking skills. Going somewhere new puts everybody on an exciting, equal footing.

6. Have family meetings. This is an ideal way to air feelings, make group decisions and help everyone feel respected for their preferences. Don’t forget that you’re all in the same boat. When tensions flare, it’s time to attend. If siblings aren’t getting along, a good “repair kit” is to have them work things out by sitting face to face, listening to and acknowledging each other’s feelings.

7. Honor individual differences. Travel often highlights some differences between family members: preferences around food, activities, how much time to be active vs. relaxing, etc. It’s a fabulous time to learn to compromise and take turns leading and following. Some kids get homesick and may act younger and need more loving attention.

8.Be prepared for idle times. In addition to the travel bag of positive family games, coloring and activity pages, have some games to use when you’re waiting or standing on lines (e.g., guessing which hand a coin is in). It’s also fun to let the kids safely scout out new places and come back to give you a report.

9. Allow some down time. Families are often not accustomed to being together all the time. Allow some ebbs and flows of being together and apart, and of quiet and more active times.

10. Listen to your own needs. Create time to be apart from the children and nurture yourself and your adult relationships. It’s a win-win situation. One of the greatest gifts you can offer your children is your own sense of happiness and well being.
mac1Dr. Mac is a child psychologist, school consultant, lecturer, award-winning songwriter, and writer and director of music for the PBS hit, Jay Jay the Jet Plane.

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Mother’s Day: Lessons From a Very Difficult Year published in the Huffington Post – May 9, 2013

As Mother’s Day comes around again, I am struck with what has changed for my mother from this year to last. Last year, my father was still alive, albeit struggling with escalating health issues. It got to the point that my mom, in her caregiver role, was rushing him to the hospital every two weeks. Being a caregiver is not easy: She slept with one eye open, listening for any changes in the sound of my dad’s breathing, trying to get him to eat when he no longer had the will, and being the face of calm when his body was no longer his own. Tough stuff. Watching a loved one suffer is

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Teacher Appreciation Day!

942688_10151413297208931_519745608_n“If there’s one thing we cannot say enough to our nation’s educators, it is THANK YOU.” – President Barack Obama

Today, May 7, 2013, is Teacher Appreciation Day. At Project Happiness, we are so grateful to all of the teachers that work with Project Happiness! They are the backbone of all of our programs and they teach us so much about how we can improve the work that we do. Without our teachers, it would not be possible to have the global impact we have. Day in and day out, from Nigeria to California, the work done by our partners in teaching shines and the enthusiasm shown by all of you motivates and inspires the students you work with.

We are proud to work with so many teachers and hope they know how grateful we are for their including us in the work that they do. Thanks to all of you and Happy Teacher Appreciation Day!

Thanksgiving: Gratitude for Even the Hard Stuff

Originally published on The Huffington Post – November 18, 2012

As Thanksgiving rolls around, it always puts me in a reset mode — time to remember what I’m grateful for. Usually, it’s the good stuff: moments of joy, new adventures, fun-filled moments. This year, however, is different: My father just passed away, my dog may have to be put to sleep any day and my dear friend who is a LOT younger finds herself in the last stages of cancer… and I generally write about happiness.

There is a shroud of disbelief and grief around me, but I know that there’s something powerfully transformative in this space. Rather than destroying my gratitude, this period is rekindling it in an even deeper way.

Some people are born optimists. My father was one. Up until the week before he passed, he believed he would live to 100. Denial kept my dad going for years. When the nurses came around, he would always say, “I’m GREAT!” which made everyone chuckle. Was this some kind of brilliant strategy? For some people, their will to live can and does produce the miracle. The biochemistry of hope can be powerful.

Yet when all those cycles have passed, when destiny catches up with desire (like being back in the hospital every two weeks), rather than dance with denial, I prefer to know

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Happy International Happiness Day!

2012 International Happiness Day Logo

Here at Project Happiness, every day is Happiness Day but today is special. For months, Project Happiness has partnered with Club de la Felicidad as the official organizers of this year’s International Happiness Day. Our two groups have partnered with individuals and organizations throughout the world to come together in a celebration of happiness. Personally, all of us here at Project Happiness owe a huge debt of gratitude to AG Ruiz of Club de la Felicidad in Mexico. He created the International Happiness Day website and has coordinated all of our efforts throughout Latin America to celebrate this day.

This International Happiness Day is extra-special as it is the last one to be celebrated on July 10th. International Happiness Day was originally founded in 2008 by Liberto Pereda Romera of Portugal in an effort to bring all the countries of the world together to celebrate happiness. Ambassadors from all over the world organize events where they live. This year, Project Happiness has given a copy of the Project Happiness film to every ambassador who has requested it and most are including a screening as part of their festivities.

So why is this the last year we are celebrating in July? When Liberto launched International Happiness Day, one of his goals was to have the United Nations recognize it as an official day so that we could spotlight the desire of people all over the world to have more happiness for themselves and the people around them. We are thrilled to announce that after four years of ambassadors lobbying

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Valentine’s Day — Really?

From the Huffington Post:

Valentine’s Day: What does it represent to you? Is it a reminder of the passions of new romance or the love that you are longing for in your life? Is it a commercial orchestration fabricated by the greeting card, flower and chocolate industries to make us buy more? Here’s the real question: Can Valentine’s Day remind us of the enormous capacity for love that we already carry within?

From the day we are born, not only do we need love and affection to thrive, we constantly give and generate love. Benjamin Disraeli says, “We are all born for love. It is the principle of existence, and its only end.” Yet the word love in itself is confusing. It means so many different things to different people. Here are some of its faces:

• the protective affection felt by parents for their children
• the resonance felt by sharing interests and true friendship
• the sexual expression of love that also can hold the potential of transcendence
• the sense of caring for others’ welfare — what we call unconditional love.

There are times when each of these types of love takes the lead, but

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