As adults, we countdown to our summer holidays to recharge our batteries. But they can also be a profoundly beneficial time for children.
Parents are focused not on work, but on play, thereby giving their children the prized gift of time.
Dad or Mum, building sandcastles, playing badminton on the beach, jumping over waves. It seems like fun, but it’s also “attachment play”, and it’s vital for bonding. Attachment play also enhances self-esteem, sending a child the psychological message: “You have my full attention. I delight in you. I delight in being with you.”
Family holidays take on an even greater importance if you compare them with what goes on at home. So many families have stress-filled lives. Here are some sobering statistics:
- Two-thirds of conversations between parent and child are about daily routine (Elizabeth Buie, TES).
- 65 per cent of parents say they only play occasionally with their children.
- One in six fathers say they do not know how to play with their child and a third say they simply don’t have the time to play (Parent-Play survey, Playmobil UK).
- Only a quarter of children say they talk to parents more than once a week about something that matters (Child of Our Time).
- We worry about our physical health but we need to pay just as much attention to relationship health within the family. And, of course, research shows that relationship health is vital for physical health (Holt-Lunstad et al, 2015).
What is less widely known is that holidays can also advance brain development in children. This is because on a family holiday you are exercising two genetically ingrained systems deep in the brain’s limbic area, which can all too easily be “unexercised” in the home. These are the PLAY system and the SEEKING system (Panksepp 2016). [……..]