Marriage and Family — 09 January 2011
The family who vacations together bonds together

The merits of healthy family connections have been widely researched and are well known. There are immense health and psychological advantages to members of all generations who share quality time with each other. One wonderful way to create memorable life-benefits for everyone in the family is by enjoying vacations together.

The health benefits of taking vacations have been well documented by many studies. Framingham Heart Study found that women who do not take vacations are eight times more likely to suffer from heart disease than women who do take vacations. Another study found that taking regular vacations cut men’s risk of death from a heart attack by 32%. A 2005 National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety study found that women who vacationed regularly were half as likely to suffer from depression than those who did not do so.

Healthy adults also benefit from bonding with their children and grandchildren during unencumbered time together. John de Graaf, of the University of Minnesota and executive director of TAKE BACK YOUR TIME, advocates for a national law guaranteeing paid vacation to all employees. He states, “Vacation is a family value.”

Though Pew Research Survey found that 68% of middle-class respondents greatly valued having free time, fewer and fewer took time to vacation.

Those who create a tradition of yearly vacations with their extended family can attest to the joys and benefits of spending intergenerational time with their offspring. Among them are the following:

1. Vacationing together enables both adults and children the freedom to temporarily abandon their daily routines and concentrate on play, fun and laughter. 2. Vacations offer opportunities for young and old to explore nature, new environments and to create memorable bonding experiences. 3. It is a time of learning and teaching when each generation partakes in each role. 4.Vacations actually equalize multigenerational curiosity in a uniquely thrilling way. 5.While vacationing together young and old expand their horizons about how others live, how nature works as they access their individual creative thinking.

The fun and wonder everyone can discover on vacation is a unique blessing. University of Minnesota Professor, William Dougherty says that vacations are a primary source of family bonding and the best experiences children are likely to remember.

A personal example of professor Dougherty’s findings was enacted by our adult children who created a postcard listing of our yearly family vacation destinations as a reminder of “the best times of their childhood.”

If you can and have not done so yet:

• Consider planning a yearly family vacation with your children. It need not be costly, just fun.
• Include your young children in devising what captures their interests and fascinates them. You are likely to become equally enraptured in their thrill.
• Make it a multigenerational vacation, if possible. The seniors will delight with their grandchildren – as all benefit.
• Remember that family bonding is a memorable lifelong gift that keeps indefinitely enriching every member of the family.

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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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