Our Family Vacation: Mom, Dad, Four Kids & RAD
A few weeks ago, Wendy asked me to write an article about preparing to take a vacation with my 4 kids, 2 with serious RAD.
It is about half way through our vacation, I have the worst headache ever, my 14 year old is cleaning out the bathroom of all harmful products so that he can sleep in there – his choice, so that he can drink water at 10:30 – seeing as how we are not at home, I don’t want to take the chance that he will pee somewhere random in his grandmother’s house.
Traveling 20 hours with 4 kids is crazy enough, but doing it with 2 kids that have attachment issues is even more difficult. My husband and I try to talk about the trip with our children before we leave; we also try to communicate clearly with all the people that we visit so that our odd ways of parenting are better understood. We take these steps to ensure a fun time for the kids by building memories with immediate and extended family and maintaining some routine so that the kids don’t completely fall apart.
Before our trip, we had our kiddos talk with our therapist about any concerns they had about the trip. Our therapist also discussed issues of trust and building trust with all of our family members. She also mentioned how some things we do that seem constricting are actually done to protect our kids from embarrassment (like peeing somewhere other than the toilet, pulling out hair, or having temper tantrums).
It is extremely important to us that others understand what our kids are going through. In the past, we have sent info to our relatives from Dan Hughes, RAD, Housecalls Counseling or other resources so that family has some information on what our kids are experiencing, and why we ask for such unusual support from everyone we are visiting. If they read the info, there is at least the beginning of an education, but I still get weird looks and judgmental words. I simply refer them to the publications.
With all the difficulties and rough days, it is still fun to go on vacation and highly important that our children learn to have fun times with more family and enlarge their circle of people they can trust – not to mention people who truly love them. We planned fun things to do along our trip. We planned lots of swimming – physical activity – to keep them regulated. We also had downtime with movies so they could tune everybody else out. Then back to more playing with family: cards, board games, conversations with grandma instead of timeout. It was a great opportunity to allow others to do some of the difficult work without realizing they were making my kids work (being interested and learning about others).
From previous years, we learned it was difficult to stay with lots of different people and move locations a bunch, so this year we planned on spending the night in fewer locations with no other people (or only one, my mom). We stayed in hotels instead of homes which made it easier and gave us alone time if we needed it. We also asked people to visit us at my mom’s which allowed our children to settle into some structure and routine. One night, on a whim, I allowed 3 kids to go to their Great aunt’s for two days thinking that it would be a great memory building time, and it was. However, my attachment challenged daughter spent a couple of days treating me quite badly since I was not as laid back as my aunt! Sometimes you have to try things to realize your kids aren’t ready for that experience.
Vacation should be fun, I’m not sure it ever is for anyone. For us, it definitely has its challenges. However, it is important to see extended family and to have fun summer vacation memories. It is even important to have disastrous times with family; that’s normal, and our kids have to learn to work through these life lessons. We just tried to stay the course, and parent therapeutically with love and logic. It was also important to have the support of my husband and to keep myself energized (more people draining the life out of me than normal…with the looks and words from extended family). What’s most important is that we are doing what we need to for these kids; helping them heal and learn to live their life in various arenas.
P.S. No matter how hard you try to communicate, people don’t get it. Communicate more! I learned the hard way with a very dear, beloved, favorite aunt of mine after we had a breakdown. She was trying to help, I was trying not to be “controlling” and it commenced in tears. All was resolved, but it took more talking, explaining, and listening. Never stop trying, family is worth it!