Travelling with kids: How to avoid children’s holiday blues

Dr Walter Gilliam's second column of tips on travelling with kids.

Last week, Dr Walter Gilliam, the director of the Edward Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy and the associate professor of child psychology at the Child Study Center at the Yale School of Medicine, shared his tips on preparing your child for travel and what to do in transit. This week, he advises on what to do once you reach your destination.

1. Try to keep meal and nap times consistent to home, but alter the schedule a bit

Your child’s sleep-wake cycle will be disturbed for several days after arrival at your destination. At first, this might get masked by your child’s excitement about being some place new. Expect some tiredness that may show up as grumpiness, irritability or an inclination to cry. Travel is very hard on young children (even when they enjoy it), so try to be forgiving and give them the time that they need to readjust at the destination, as well as when you get back home.

2. Plan agendas that are sensible for their needs

Even though it’s fun and exciting for adults to go to new places and gather with friends and family, young children thrive on routine and predictability. So you may need to do fewer things each day. Breaks for meals and rest are always good to schedule into the day.

3. Remember that new places can be stressful

Many young children feel anxious in a new place and cling more to their parents. When children cling in new situations, they’re seeking the reassurance that comes from the comfort of having their parents around them. They carry an innate trust that their parents consider the new place a safe ­environment.

4. Remember that new people can be stressful

Many young parents travel to see their extended families. Just because the parent knows and loves someone very much doesn’t mean that your child will immediately relate to the new person very well. Give your child time to slowly meet and get to know people who they don’t know or haven’t seen in a while. If you plan to give a person that you’re visiting a small gift, perhaps allow your child to pick out their own small gift that they can also give, as a way of saying hello.

5. Don’t bury your child in gifts and sweets

Young children can easily become overstimulated and overtired. Children don’t need as many new toys and sweets as we often think they do. As always, it’s important to find the right balance.

6. Keep diets consistent

Trying new and special foods is fun, but too many new foods may lead young children to feel ill. Make treats a “treat” – not the new norm.

7. Time with you is your child’s greatest gift

Remember, time with parents is the biggest treat and gift that any child can receive on a holiday. Never underestimate how valuable time with you is (even if it’s on an airplane or in a car). Take as many pictures and videos as you can. Your children will never be this young again.

Provided by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation.

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Published: June 12, 2014 04:00 AM


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