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The Gay Uncle's Guide to Family Travel

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Guest blogger Brett Berk: The holiday season means bad weather, unwanted gifts, overeating, and ... family trips. 

family travelling in winter

As you prepare for that journey over river and through woods, The Gay Uncle would like to warn you off Lifeboating. 

Lifeboating is a perilous syndrome, exemplified by a parent's attempt to cart along every single thing their child might need when away from the insular bubble of home: every toy, stuffed animal, article of clothing, book, feeding utensil, organic bath product, and DVD.  There's nothing wrong with being prepared for contingencies, and kids are certainly comforted by the presence of familiar objects.

But the goal in leaving the house should be to have your child to experience the world, not be entirely shielded from it.  Moreover, Lifeboating sets you up for failure.  You can't plan for, or solve, every problem or challenge that comes along, no matter how focused your crap-cramming efforts.  And if you try to, your child will come to expect you to intervene -- on their behalf, and with a multitude of options -- every time something happens. 

This behavior prevents kids from learning the necessary skills of selection, flexibility, and adaptation, impeding their ability resolve problems for themselves, and fostering the creation of new issues and frustrations--ones they'll expect you to resolve.  See the cycle?  Break it.  Bring along a limited number of choices, and have the expectation that they'll be the ones to adapt. 

It may take a couple tries for this tactic to work, but your choice here is between a few irritating fits, and a lifelong stream of them.  You decide.

Like this? You can buy The Gay Uncle's Guide to Parenting or visit him at

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1 comments so far | Post a comment now
Dawn December 22, 2008, 3:58 PM

Great tips I will keep in mind as my newborn gets older. I always overpack but I also travel with the philosophy that “there will be stores where we’re going.” (so far that’s always been true).

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