PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
Family Vacations: Dealing with Relatives

For many families, vacation is a time to spend with faraway relatives or friends we don't get to see very often. You might end up staying in an unfamiliar house with people you don't know very well. Let's look at some common problems that come up in these situations, and ideas that can help you solve them:

Situation: Different house, different rules.
You're going to be staying at your aunt and uncle's house for the first time, and you don't know quite how to act. Will they let you watch TV? Are you supposed to help with dishes and cleaning up? Do you have to be quiet and in bed at a certain hour?

    Idea: Talk to your parents ahead of time. Before you show up at your relatives' house, get the scoop from the adults. Discuss any special rules or guidelines your relatives might have, and what specific things to be careful about. Ask them to call ahead to get information you need.

    Idea: Keep your eyes open. How do your relatives' kids act? How do your parents act when they're in your relatives' home? Just by paying attention, you should be able to get a sense of whether things are strict or laid-back.

Situation: Grandma is a stranger.
You're spending your vacation with your grandmother, who lives in a different state. You love her, but since you only get to see her about once a year, she still seems a little bit like a stranger to you. Sometimes it can be hard to relax and have fun when she's in the room.

    Idea: Get to know her! Try helping her with the cooking or chores, playing a game of chess or checkers, going for a walk, or simply asking her about her life. The more you get to know each other, the more comfortable you'll be together. Hopefully, you'll become friends as well as relatives, and you'll have a much better time staying in her home.

Situation: People are treating you like you're five years old!
If your mom's cousin hasn't seen you in a few years, he might still think of you as the same age you were when you last met! He may buy you gifts that are too young for you, or talk to you in a way that makes you feel silly, or not understand that you're old enough for certain freedoms and responsibilities.

    Idea: Be understanding, be polite. If someone is treating you like you're younger than you are, keep your attitude in check. Try not to get angry or frustrated, and simply understand that when someone isn't there to see you grow up, they may forget how to treat you.

    Idea: Talk to a parent. When you get a chance, pull an adult aside and say something like, "Peter doesn't understand that I'm growing up. Is there some way you can get him to stop acting like I'm a baby?" Your parent will probably let your relative know that you should be treated more maturely. If this doesn't help, you might just have to grin and bear it. Maybe your relative will always see you as a kid no matter how old you get!

Situation: You are bored out of your mind.
Time with relatives isn't always thrilling. It could be that you just don't have much in common, or that everyone's much older. Maybe you're in a place that's a bit isolated, and you can't just cruise on down to the mall or catch a movie. You're convinced that you will actually die of boredom, and this is simply the worst vacation ever.

    Idea: Become the family historian. Be the person who records precious stories and memories from each relative. You can interview them and jot down notes on paper, or record them talking with a video camera. You may learn some fascinating things about your grandfather's time in the Army or your cousin's years as a ballet dancer. You might hear all about what your mother was like at your age, or a relative who has passed away. Compile your "research" into a book or video to give out as family gifts at the next holiday.

Remember: If a situation with a relative is truly bothering you and keeping you from enjoying your trip, don't suffer in silence. Speak to an adult about what's going on.

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