Travel Notes from a Family Therapist
Health & Wellness, Traveling With Kids: Stories of Service
High functioning families have fun together.
It’s officially December and the height of travel season when people want to be home for the holidays. While most are traveling to go see family near and far, to eat cookies and open presents, some families choose to escape the hustle and bustle all together and celebrate by taking their families on trips that help them focus more on giving than receiving. I recently interviewed a family that took a trip during the holidays to Haiti. They spent their time helping to build a new schoolhouse for a small village. They were able to see the humble conditions these children lived in and how much they wanted to learn, as the children said, in a “real school.” Each family member reported that they returned home with a deeper appreciation for the privileges they had taken for granted in their lives and were eager to go back again and do more.
As a Marriage and Family Therapist, one common factor that I have found to be prevalent in high functioning (even if not picture perfect) families is their ability to have fun together, to reminisce about holidays, vacations, and funny moments that happened along the way. We all can get caught up in the busy commercialism of Christmas, but it is especially easy for children and teens to lose focus on what is truly important as they excitedly try to guess what those gifts under the tree contain.
In a society increasingly consumed with selfie-taking and getting a certain number of “likes” on social media, I’d like to see it replaced with a bit more “Social Interest.” “Social Interest” is a Psychology term coined by Individual Psychologist Alfred Adler. Simply put, it refers to one’s interest in the interest of others. As the forefather of all modern psychology, Adler discovered that one’s degree of social interest is in direct correlation to their degree of mental health. Service to others became his prescription for a good, healthy, and positive mindset. It boosts the mood, encourages, and gladdens the heart. It gives one purpose and inspires others to join in too! Helping others is rewarding and makes life worth living. It can pull us out of our own self-absorbed, dulled, or depressed feelings, and instead refocuses us on the well-being of others.
The Gift of Travel
If you prefer to travel at a more favorable time of year, another great way to incorporate this spirit of selfless service at Christmastime is to give travel as a gift! You could hand out envelopes with tickets in them, or like the family I interviewed, wrap object clues that represent the place the family will travel to and have them all guess where they will go! Africa? India? China? Haiti?
To prepare for such a trip, it’s also much more meaningful if each family member researches a little about the location or organization you will be participating in. Several examples include Habitat for Humanity, Hope for Haiti, Feed My Starving Children, etc. I always advise parents to have children use safe search engines to look up pictures and information online. To assist with this, parents may want to check out filtering products available like “Circle with Disney,” a service to keep kids and families safe from inappropriate internet content. The service also has a “GO” feature which enables you to use it on devices when you are away from home, making it perfect for traveling families!
If foreign travel is not for you, giving service locally can also be incorporated into anyone’s travel plans during this holiday season. Nearly every city has a soup kitchen, a food shelf, and/or a women’s shelter that all depend on volunteers to help. Whatever your holiday plans this year, giving back locally or globally will be something that will make more of an impact on your family than any object that could be bought and forgotten about a few months later. Travel broadens the mind, enhances your worldview, creates memories, and instills more appreciation for cultural diversity, the privileges and freedoms we have, and the desire for more adventures in years to co
Tracy Grant M.A. is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist working with individuals, couples, and families in the Denver, Colorado area. She received her undergraduate degree from Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minnesota and graduate degree in Counseling & Psychotherapy with an emphasis in Marriage & Family Therapy from the Adler Graduate School in Richfield, Minnesota. She is a member of the American Association for Marriage & Family Therapy (AAMFT), is certified as a Prepare/Enrich Couples facilitator, and helps clients with a variety of issues including anger management, depression, anxiety, and life balance. Tracy has 15+ years of experience educating and coaching children, teens, couples, and parents; helping them to improve family functioning and to manage a variety of mental health issues.Tracy currently lives in Monument, Colorado and enjoys music, art, traveling, and spending time with friends and family. Feel free to reach out to Tracy at coloradocounselingandpsychothe