Tis the season of get-togethers and holiday travels. While it’s a joyous time of year, the hustle and bustle can create anxiety for children. Make your family visits and adventures enjoyable for everyone involved with a little foresight and preparation.
Children are sensitive to change and the holiday excitement and disruption of their schedules can be overwhelming. Many parents dread family travel because of the impact it can have on children. We are happy to offer some simple guidelines to help alleviate the stress of holiday travel and make road trips more fun for the entire family.
• When Possible, Stick to Routines: This applies especially for younger travelers. Consistent meal times and naps, combined with keeping up familiar habits, like reading a book before bed, keeps the stress of the unfamiliar to a minimum.
• Be Prepared: Unusual schedules and unfamiliar faces can cause anxiety. Pack a bag of favorite toys to have on hand and be prepared to escape with your child to a quiet room for a little one-on-one time.
• Use that Energy! Encourage physical exercise. It releases tension and burns excess energy. Plan daily for at least two half-hour opportunities for physical activities and play.
• Schedule Light: Activity overload tires everyone out. Visiting your grandparents and in-laws on the same day might be more than your children can handle.
• What’s on the Menu? Have healthy snacks ready for when the big holiday dinner is just not appetizing enough for your little one. Limit foods that might affect behavior, such as those that have refined sugar and artificial additives.
• Set Clear Guidelines: Remind your children of your expectations before visiting grandparents or going to the airport. Remember to acknowledge and praise good behavior. But have realistic expectations. Even if you are in a special place, your child is still a child and will act like one.
• Follow Your Child’s Lead: Your child will let you know when they are done. Listen, even if you have not accomplished everything you planned for the day. Trying to fit in that last event could lead to a major meltdown.
• Schedule Down Time: For your child, doing something special with people they know and love best is the most important. Children do not care that you packed every moment with a new adventure. Schedule time for the immediate family to unwind.
• Be Present: Share in your child’s vacation experience. Seeing things through their eyes and talking with them about what they feel enhances the sense of adventure and being together.
• Encourage Learning: Ask “what if” or “how do you think” questions. Play games (such as the license plate game), make up stories or draw pictures about your adventures. These are all great ways to encourage learning during vacations.
Have a safe, healthy and joyous holiday season!