A psychologist friend and I were talking about how her Summer is going. “I'm seeing a lot of kids with Travel Anxiety,” she said. Apparently, some kids get nervous about going on family vacations, even though the prospect is exciting and promises a fun time. It makes sense. Children may react to change and that includes leaving familiar surroundings to find adventure elsewhere. And even though his/her loved ones will be there, the process of traveling, whether by land or by sea, may prove stressful. So with plenty of Summer still ahead, how can you lessen Travel Anxiety in your child?
- Get your kid involved in the vacation
planning. If possible, allow them a voice in the destination. If
that's not feasible, give them some say in the itinerary of things
you'll do while you're away. Having some control over what they'll
be doing, perhaps something as simple as going to a park with
swings, etc., may help with the powerlessness they feel by the
prospect of leaving their familiar environment.
- If you're going to a hotel, show them photos on the hotel's website of what their room might look like. Seeing where they're going to be so they can picture themselves in a new place can help lessen nervousness.
- Let them vent and help the child problem solve. Discuss with them what they might be afraid of. You can reassure them that, yes, there are bathrooms on the plane and that there are, in fact, french fries aplenty in South Dakota. If they want to take a stuffed animal on vacation, let them, although you may need to stipulate how large the animal can be.
- Build physical activities into your vacation and let your child know that you'll be doing them. Walking, bike riding, hiking, and playing ball on the beach are all great tension-reducing things that will benefit your child mentally, as well as physically.
- Give your child some stress-busting tools. Positive self-talk, for example, mentally repeating a phrase such as “I'm a big kid, I'm can do this, and I am calm,” while breathing deeply may help. And speaking of breathing, one technique Diva and I use is called Visualize The Flower. We picture a rose, which can be any color, slowly opening. We breathe deep as we describe to each other what the flower looks like (my daughter favors a tie-die rose), how it's unfolding, and what it smells like (sometimes cotton candy is the fragrance). The breathing bonds and calms us both down; it's especially good for when you're stuck in traffic or when the plane is taking off.
- Reward your child for being brave. I go to our local dollar store and stock up on trinkets to reinforce good behavior.
- Make sure your child stays hydrated and sticks to normal bedtime routines. Being tired and thirsty only contributes to stress.
- Remind them that once vacation ends, they'll be back in their own warm, comfy bed with stories to tell their friends.
Vacations are fun, but they can be unnerving, especially for children who are powerless over routines and destinations. Yes, you're busy packing and organizing, but helping your child deal with Travel Anxiety ahead of time will help everyone have a better time.
Oh, and Travel Anxiety isn't limited to kids. If you, personally, have Trip Anxiety, click on this article for some great tips on how to deal with travel.