Summertime is a highly anticipated season for most families. The children are out of school. Perhaps you’ve planned a family vacation with all the bells and whistles or a trip to see extended family or friends who live in a distant location. Each participant holds high hopes for the outcome of these exciting plans, which can generate disappointment and a sense of loss when the expectations—sometimes unattainable or unrealistic—are not met.
Years ago, my husband’s parents planned a day trip with all their children and grandchildren. My nephew broke his thumb and was unable to participate with his cousins in a big adventure. I tried to alleviate his disappointment by taking him into town for a big breakfast, but he still felt left out of the family’s plans. He tried to smile, but I could tell he felt the sting of disappointment when his cousins shared their exciting stories at dinner that night.
It may sound silly for someone to become upset because the weather didn’t cooperate and the big fishing trip has to be cancelled, but it can be a big deal. You and each person on the trip imagined what the trip would be like. Although we often try to compensate the loss by adding a new activity, the unmet expectations, shattered hopes and dreams of what would happen on the fishing trip were lost.
Here are a few things you and your family can do to alleviate summertime stress and encourage realistic expectations:
1. Give each family member the opportunity to share their hopes and expectations for the trip. What are they each most excited about? What might they be a little nervous or scared about?
2. Talk about what unrealistic expectations you might have, and then give the rest of the family the opportunity to share what they hope they can do; but not be able to do.
3. Play a scenario game. What if plans change? How could you feel? What would be the biggest disappointment? How will you manage those feelings?
If plans DO change:
4. Make a special time for each person to give voice to their emotions about what did or didn’t happen.
5. Take time as a family to talk about the loss, and how each person feels about the change in plans. What do they each wish had been better, different or more.
6. Put in some extra effort to include a family member who may not be able to participate in a big event both before the event and at the end of the trip they missed.
Grief Recovery Specialist
Shanna is an author, writer, editor and project manager who has served various organizations for more than 20 years. She has written, developed and contributed to more than 60 books. As a child of divorce, she has a passion to see parents equipped to help their children successfully navigate grief and loss in hopes that they can live free from the pain unresolved grief can cause. Shanna has a B.A. in Communications. She and her husband reside in Indianapolis, IN.