Traverse City Record-Eagle

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March 22, 2014

Mental Wellness: Trauma free travel with kids easier than you think

I’m about to spend a lot of time on a plane with an almost 3-year-old and a pregnant wife. The time away is going to be great, but I am a bit apprehensive about traveling, changing time zones and not losing my sanity.

I’ve been through it already, the stares from strangers that reek of “we’re with you,” “we’ve been there,” and “why would you ever travel with a kid?” Here are a few thoughts about improving the experience for everyone.

Plan ahead

Usually we find some sort of new toy or reading material before along trip. This engages our daughter for some time. That said, planning and thinking through a child’s natural rhythms is very important. Creating environments that mirror home in a new place helps a child feel more relaxed. Thinking ahead to create patterns that are similar to home usually helps a child to feel less anxious.

Reduce screen time

It’s so easy to give a child a screen. This is especially true on long car or airplane rides. This creates long-term dependence on the screen for entertainment during times that are “boring” to a child. As well, it can make it harder to nap and find interest in things that don’t move every 0.49 seconds.

Be on vacation

Kids follow a parent’s example. If you do things that scream, “Vacation!” then kids will follow suit. Having extra Cinnabuns in an airport, reading your own book, or not checking your email will signal to a child that this time is different from the usual. They may be less likely to engage in behavior that makes travel more difficult.

Give grace freely

Traveling is stressful. By train, plane, or automobile, it creates stress, frustration, and worry. Recognize that you may react in ways that you would not at home. Forgive quickly and do the same with apologies. Move on from the frustration and start the relaxation.

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