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Study: Parents need vacations, and so do their kids

Study: Parents need vacations, and so do their kids

By Jamie Biesiada / September 23, 2015

Katie Denis’ daughter tells her a lot. For instance, that she has a pet shark named Stan. The 3-year-old also likes monkeys, because they’re purple.

“She’s told me a lot of things outside of the boundaries that I would consider normal,” Denis said. “She has never once said to me, ‘Mom, I love when you carve out quality time for us.’ And, ‘It’s great when you prioritize things like vacations.’ Because no child ever will say anything like that. They are not going to articulate that.  That is not the world we live in.”

But to better understand the effect of a working parent’s time at the office, Denis — the senior program director of Project: Time Off — went right to the source: 8- to 14-year-old children.

“Kids are the most brutally honest people on the planet,” Denis said. “They don’t hold back. They pull no punches.”

The children were the basis of a study released Tuesday, in conjunction with Project: Time Off’s Upside of Downtime Forum in New York City. Project: Time Off is a U.S. Travel Association initiative aimed at researching the benefits taking time off can have for both employers and employees.

The study found that six of seven children observed their parents’ work stress at home. It also found that 75% of children said their parents do not disconnect from work at home, and 59% are upset with their parents’ lack of presence.

“This is the norm that we’re creating,” Denis said.

The study is called “The Work Martyr’s Children: How Kids are Harmed by America’s Lost Week,” and is part of multiple studies Project: Time Off has conducted this year focused on Americans working too much.

According to Project: Time Off, each year, Americans leave 429 million days of leave on the table, taking the least amount of vacation time in almost 40 years — nearly a full week less since 2000.  Project: Time Off is advocating that workers take all of their vacation time each year, and also encourages workplaces — which it says benefit from rested, rejuvenated employees — to communicate the importance of vacations with employees.

Despite Americans taking less vacation than in recent memory, there is a “silver bullet,” Denis said: vacation. Seventy-seven percent of children said when they take time off with their parents, they feel no stress at all — so she encouraged parents to spend that time with their children, whether it be a week-long vacation or just a day with no work involved.

“Vacation matters for a variety of reasons,” Denis said, ranging from quality time together to allowing quality interactions and important conversations. It offers the opportunity, she said, to talk about things that normally get shoved aside in the course of a normal day.

Denis shared another statistic with the audience: nearly one-quarter of working parents haven’t taken a family vacation in over a year.

“We’ve really got to change the way that we’re going about this,” she said. “Because if we don’t change now, the only time that we’re going to have is the time that we regret.”

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