Heather Fillmore Coaching

How I made Family Trips More Fun for ME

Have you found that group activities and group vacations can be really stressful when you have special needs kids?

It’s not like you can blame the kids. They aren’t going to bed when they usually do, they don’t know what’s happening from one hour to the next, and they don’t have their familiar electronics, toys or food around them. It probably feels so out of control for them.

I’ve noticed that when it’s just our family, it’s not as hard for me. But when we are with other people, my defenses are on high alert. Our loved ones, who usually just see our social media posts, but don’t spend a lot of time with us, are seeing in real time, just how chaotic and challenging it gets for us. And I’ve found that I don’t like exposing that to people. It opens thing up to being judged. Yuck. Because remember…we chose this. Our special needs kids are adopted.

This year, though, I noticed that I felt a lot more patient than I did last year at our extended family camping trip. More patient with my family, and with myself.

It’s not that the circumstances had changed much. Yes, the kids are a bit more mature than they were a year ago. And we aren’t camping in a motor home.

BUT we did have 4-5 of the kids sleeping in the same bedroom with us. On top of that, there were no electronics to entertain them during down time, which is what they are used to. So there were plenty of meltdowns and fights. Plenty of tense moments.

So what was different?

nI decided to take a look at it. I took some time to compare a couple of models from my self-coaching. One from last year after our Yellowstone trip with Jeremy’s family, and one from this year, after two back to back, overnight reunions.

Here’s last year’s model:

CIRCUMSTANCE: Kids fighting and complaining

THOUGHT: People are judging us/wishing we weren’t here

FEELING: Defensive

ACTION: Quietly get really mean with the kids. Retreat away, get extra annoyed with everyone, eat too much, dream about leaving certain kids home. Spin in negative thinking.

RESULT: I’m judging us and wishing we’re not here.

DO you see how I created my result from my thought?

Do you see how my thought wasn’t fact? That it was created in my mind? It sure felt like fact back then.

Since then, I’ve had another year to practice coaching myself, noticing my perfectionism and working on letting go of it.

And what I keep seeing over and over is that most of my pain happens when I’m either

a) wanting things to be a certain way and they aren’t,

b) comparing our family to “normal” families and regretting our decisions or

c) worrying about other people’s opinions.

I’m slowly learning to loosen my grip on trying to control everything and everyone around me.

I’m slowly learning to just allow what is, and to OWN what makes me and my family different.

To just let it be.

And it’s so freeing.

Here’s THIS year’s model:

CIRCUMSTANCE: Kids fighting and complaining

THOUGHT: We are quirky and inconvenient to have around, but it’s OK. It’s what makes us, US.


ACTION: Focus on connecting with everyone. Allow the kids to be mad without mirroring them. Just be present in the moment.

RESULT: A much more enjoyable vacation for me.

Are you curiously, without judgement, observing your thoughts during stressful occasions like this?

What ideas are you holding onto that are causing you pain?


What expectations do you have of your children that most likely aren’t going to be met? Can you let go of any of them?

What could be different if you did? What can you embrace?

My favorite tag line lately is…”and it’s OK.”

Try it and see if things shift.

Sending Love! You’ve got this, Mamal!

XO, Heather


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