Useful Tips to Survive Parenting on Vacation, or with Other Families

by Brenda Yoder, MA

parenting on vacationA reader asked about how to handle the delicate situation of parenting on vacation, whether you have visitors or are vacationing with family or friends.

It brings up images of boys gone wild, jumping on the sofa while eating Cheetos with muddy shoes.




Vacation scenarios aren’t that bad {hopefully}. But situations exist where you’re vacationing with another person who parents differently than you do.
Whether it’s with grandparents or with peers, parenting on vacation can cause stress and uncomfortable moments.

Some guidelines to consider when parenting on vacation if you are a guest in someone’s home:

  • Be respectful of your hosts’ parenting style, lifestyle, and rules. If they’re more lenient than you are and you don’t have children{perhaps you’re Grandma}, then relax and enjoy the children unless they are rude, disrespectful or harmful to you or others. In these cases, saying something firm yet gentle to a child lets them know you won’t accept their disrespectful or harmful behavior towards you.  
  • If you are visiting and have children, instruct your children to respect your hosts’ parenting style, lifestyle, and rules.  The bottom line is relationships, not rights. While each parent has a right to parent their children according to their philosophy or style, being a guest in someone’s home should take precedence unless harm or danger is an issue. If there is too much friction between hosts and guests because of different parenting styles, consider staying in a hotel during the time you’re visiting. Enjoy the people you are visiting and try to put differences aside.

Some guidelines to consider when parenting on vacation if you have guests in your home:

  • When you have guests in your home who parent differently, also consider the principle that relationships are important, not rights.  However, if there are health or safety factors, it’s reasonable to express those to the children and parents, especially in situations that are different for the visiting family.  However, if there are small discrepancies between parenting styles, consider finding common ground during the time your guests are with you so awkward or hurtful situations can be avoided. “Choose your battles” is a good guideline in considering what you should enforce or what you can let go during the vacation.
  • If you are the host and the differences between you and the guests could be too explosive, consider sharing the costs of a hotel for the guest so both of you can feel comfortable and enjoy each other without the added stress of differences. This may seem extreme, but it’s worth considering if the tension cannot be avoided or if you can’t give up your style for the duration.

Once vacation is over and guests are gone, then you can resume your family routine.

Families are all different, and part of parenting is helping children understand differences and how to respect others in those differences.

Teaching children that “things are different when we’re at Grandma’s” or “When Uncle Bob and Aunt Karen come, they do things differently than we do, and that’s okay” are important moments of parenting.

Children takes cues from adults around them. If they witness strife, judgment, and tension when others around them are different, they will learn that. If they experience respect, honor, and flexibility, they will gain those skills.

There’s an ethic in the counseling profession that “you do what is best for the client.” If requires laying aside your personal biases and rights so you can help your client based on their beliefs and cultural mores. It’s a good principle to apply to this situation.

When in doubt, do what is best for your guest or for your host. Children won’t be scarred if the rules are a little more lax or rigid for a short time.

Relationships worth fostering require respect and honor, not individual rights.

But it may require hiding the Cheetos.

How do you handle parenting on vacation? We’d love to hear your tips!