Expert advice for parents travelling with children.
Travelling with kids: Keeping your children happy on holiday
The holidays are an exciting time for many, but there can be a fine line between excitement and anxiety; planning and stress; action-packed fun and exhaustion. 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, shares his top tips for travelling with children.
1. Involve your child in the planning of the trip
They’ll not only feel more involved but also less anxious. Let them share in your anticipation and excitement in getting ready to travel.
2. Allow your young child to help pack
Pack a small backpack for each child that includes things that they can enjoy on the plane. Choose things that you know hold the child’s attention, as well as something new as a special treat. Consider books, drawing materials and stickers, or, depending on the child’s age, songs that they enjoy on an iPod, a favourite stuffed animal, small cars and maybe some favourite snacks. These objects from home can help provide a young child with comfort and a sense of stability.
3. Anticipate your young child’s need for exercise and movement
Travelling with young children can require a lot of patience. They become restless on a plane trip before the adults do, so it’s important to anticipate this and allow them room to walk through the aisle and stretch. Parents can help one another out and take turns on aisle duty. Remember, if it’s a short trip for you, it’s a long trip for your young child. If it’s a long trip, it’s extremely long for them.
4. Give your child some downtime
It also helps if the child can have some quiet rest time on the plane – turn off the overhead lights and encourage them to listen to music or read them a story. On long trips, this is often made easy by the flight attendants.
5. Prepare your baby for take-off and landing
Have you noticed that babies tend to cry most during take-off and landing? The change in air pressure often is very uncomfortable for them. A simple tip for parents is to give your young child a sippy cup (a small beaker with a lid and a spout) of water for use during take-off and descent. Avoid juices or other sugary drinks. Encourage your child to start sipping as the plane sits on the runway before take-off, and continue sipping intermittently until the plane reaches its cruising altitude. Also, encourage sipping again when the plane starts to descend, until it reaches ground. The action of sipping liquids and swallowing food opens up their ear canals and helps avoid the painful sensation of ear-popping that many air travellers experience. Remember, if your ears feel like popping, then your young child (with much smaller ear canals) has been experiencing this for several minutes already – don’t wait for your ears to pop before helping your child.
Provided by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation. Next week: how to manage your children when you get to your destination.
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