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#AskAlyson: 2 Sets of Family Rules, 1 Joint Vacation

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Dear Alyson


My best friend and I always take summer vacations together at a cottage with our families. The trouble is that we have very different parenting styles and it can really lead to problems when have our kids together for a week. Just as one example, I make my kids sit down at the table to eat while hers are allowed to eat standing up and while walking around or watching TV. It drives me nuts. I can’t make her kids sit – but my children feel like I am being unfair to them and mimic the other children.


Please help! I love my friend but this is hurting our friendship now.





Dear Angel,


Yes, it’s not just our spouses that can have different opinions than us about parenting. I can’t eliminate those differences, but I can help ameliorate some of the challenges.


Before you go away, have a talk with your children. Explain that different families operate with different rules, and that is okay.   Also explain that there are different rules for different places, like home, church, and school.


Ask your friend if you can have a family meeting with ALL the members of the two families to lay down some basic “cottage rules and planning” together.   Most kids like talking about the activities they would like to do and have some say on the meal planning. Include a few of the contentious issues from past holidays, like where food is to be eaten.   You may decide your kids can have a week of fun vacation eating in front of the TV so long as they bring their plates back to the kitchen or the food is not “liquidy” or too crumbly. This is a new rule for one week, but back at home the old family rules stand.   Now, your friend might make a contingency on what time is lights-out or rules for wearing sun block etc..  Working issues out as a group makes it less personal, since its no longer about parenting styles and is instead looking for solutions to common issues. The kids will do more of the talking than the adults.


Post your menu, activities, chores, and agreements where everyone can see them.


Let me know how it goes!



About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

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