Helping hand for families to get a break

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We all know that a little sunshine can go a long way. There really is nothing quite like a few days of rest and relaxation with our loved ones to help us recover from the wear and tear of the daily grind.

Shocking then to discover that more than 1.46 million families living in the UK today cannot afford so much as a day out together, let alone a holiday.

Family Holiday Association report shows that family time is important bonding time that can help families get through other difficulties

Family Holiday Association report shows that family time is important bonding time that can help families get through other difficulties

That’s where the Family Holiday Association comes in.

The national charity helps struggling families in the UK to take a break together, so they too can enjoy the positive benefits that spending time away with the people they love can bring.

Last year, the Family Holiday Association helped 205 Sheffield families to get away on either a short break or a day trip. This year, 181 families have already benefitted from a break, completely funded by the charity.

These holidays include either four days at a Haven Holiday Park or seven nights at the coast in one of the charity’s caravans.

Family Holiday Association report shows that family breaks can have a big impact on a child's wellbeing and development

Family Holiday Association report shows that family breaks can have a big impact on a child's wellbeing and development

For people like Maryam Mahmud, a Sheffield Young Carers family project worker and referral agent for the Family Holiday Association, the benefits of these breaks are obvious.

Maryam said: “The families we support face some of the toughest challenges life can bring, from severe and sudden illness, to abuse or bereavement. We believe that spending quality time together results in stronger, healthier and happier families and, as a result, communities.” As a family support worker, Maryam works with families in Sheffield who have a young carer, aged eight to 21, responsible for providing substantial care for family members with mental health issues or substance misuse issues.

Maryam said: “My role as a referral agent for the Family Holiday Association is to help reduce stress and anxiety and show families that they too can build happy memories with their young carer by getting away from all their stresses and worries for a short time and being able to focus on what really matters.

“Most of the families I work with are often unable to even consider a holiday, let alone have one. There is often so much going on for families and this opportunity gives them a chance to put things into perspective. They are able to put things on hold and take a break, then come back refreshed with relationships re-established and ready to tackle anything.”

The Family Holiday Association was established in 1975 by Pat and Joan Laurence. In their first year, the pair were able to help just a handful of families. Last year over 2,800 families across the UK benefitted directly from the charity’s help. According to a report published recently by the Family Holiday Association, 49 per cent of Brits say their happiest memory is that of a holiday with their family and an overwhelming majority - 55 per cent - agreed these holidays gave them happy memories that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Far more than a tan and time off work, the research report also shows the wide range of lasting social, emotional and psychological benefits that taking a break as a family can bring. They found 24 per cent of those questioned said they particularly call on happy memories of family holidays when times get tough.

Maryam said: “The reaction from families, when we reveal that we’re sending them on holiday, is usually one of great relief and excitement to be able to do what other ‘normal’ families do. It gives them something to look forward to, a sense of hope and gratitude and optimism for the future.”

The charity’s Professor of Marketing and Tourism, Scott McCabe, said there is an important relationship between holidays and positive long term memories, adding: “Holidays are a key source of pleasure and other positive emotions involving intense, immersive experiences. Quality time is an important facet of holidays and, because the experiences we gain are different to everyday life events, they tend to stand out stronger in our memories.

“Holidays and travel experiences can contribute to our identities and enable us to construct an enduring sense of self around these stand-out experiences. As key milestones in people’s lives – like a first kiss, first love, and getting married – the many positive experiences associated with family holidays help us to construct a sense of a happy family life that we look back on through life.”

Charity director John McDonald said: “For many of the families we support, the short seaside breaks we provide are the first time they’ve ever been able to go away together - even the most simple of day trips can be a real lifeline.

“This research is the cast iron evidence we have long known to be true and demonstrates the incredible, positive impacts on the family and wider society that a break away from the daily grind can bring. We consider these positive outcomes to be a ‘happiness anchor’ – reflecting on our happiest memories of joyful time spent together as a family can be powerful in bringing relief and respite when faced with the darker times that life can bring.

“By using these memories as an anchor to take us back to more cheerful moments, we’re often able to approach problems with a fresh sense of perspective. But for many without such memories, re-igniting a sense of optimism for getting through the tougher times can seem like an impossible task.”

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