Hi from the beautiful sun drenched Algarve, where I have made an impromptu winter escape with my two kids!
They are having a delightful time, splashing in rock pools, running about my aunt’s gorgeous villa, loving each other and… CRYING A LOT!
This afternoon, after a sweet morning of Special Time, we set out for an adventure at the much-adored local beach.
Except my daughter did not set out; she stood naked outside the front door refusing to wear clothes, get into her buggy or walk with us.
“I’m cold, I’m cold, I won’t go to the beach,” she wailed like she was set on repeat.
“I hear you, I’m sorry you don’t like our plan right now.” I listened and listened. About 40 minutes went by, by which point her brother was running out of patience.
My daughter howled: “I want a different T-shirt,” and I reminded her that the one on offer was just fine.
“I’m dying of boredom, I don’t even want to go anymore,” my son said, now sobbing too.
I was fairly under-resourced and getting fed up by this point. I vented to no-one in particular,“I’m just trying to take you guys for a picnic on the beach, nothing horrible ya know!”
And then the penny dropped. Spoiled Outing Syndrome. That is the technical term at Hand in Hand Parenting for the phenomenon where you are having a lovely time and your kid suddenly loses it for no apparent reason.
Sure enough, soon the wailing about the T-shirt progressed into some quiet words, “If Daddy were here, you could take Zephyr to the beach and he would get me another T-shirt.”
There, it was out. The T-shirt upset was a pretext to get some feelings out about her parents’ recent separation. Now she could finally allow me to dress her and clamber into the buggy. As we strolled, my son had his turn to sob, throwing down his spade and then crying about throwing it, then crying more when I suggest we go and pick it up, until: “I miss Daddy…”
After some heavy crying, he too returned back to his happy self.
Why Good Times are Safe Times
During our contented amble towards the beach I noticed how this was probably the first time in months I’d spent a few days of unrushed, unpressured time with my kids. Having this relaxed time allowed us all to tune in more deeply with each other and for me to be more relaxed and available. My kids had been ‘holding on’ for a chance to feel safe enough to let go. Now, here it was!
The body, with its extraordinary self-mending capacity, not only physical but also emotional wounds, uses the first opportunity it gets to dump out all the feelings about the times where there was not the same high level of connection.
Spoiled Outing Syndrome is something you can expect to happen when you have some sweet, connected time with your children, often during a day out or over the holidays. The sense of trust and safety you build up when you pour your delight and attention onto your children allows feelings to bubble up from all the times where it hasn’t felt this way.
Not surprisingly, these reactions can often throw us as parents because we can think, ‘Hey I’m giving you everything you need today, why are you upset?!’
So if this happens in your family over the holidays, try and embrace it for the therapeutic emotional clear out that it is.
For more holiday parenting help read Helping Your Children Get Along, Especially During the Holidays
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If you want to know more about Special Time see our free video series here.