There are so many reasons why kids get anxious, and some of them definitely put a lot of strain on us parents, caregivers (even teachers) on how to manage it. Read on to see over 10 full-proof tips on How to Travel with an Anxious Kid.
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How to Travel with an Anxious Kid
Do you have kids that get nervous easily? You want to help them feel calm and secure but sometimes all your efforts go to waste. This is because kids don’t understand adult language just yet. If they feel sad, they will express it in many different ways and one of them is to act out. Either way, traveling with children can be very exhausting and a tedious experience on its own, but add a nervous child to the mix and you might never travel again!
When kids have anxious thoughts or feelings, a common response from the adults in their lives is to jump in and solve the problem.
If they’re terrified of insects, it’s pretty easy to keep them away from seeing any in the house – which means that’ll cut your ‘outdoor playtime’ in half if not altogether. And guess what? This isn’t the way to solve the problem. Keeping them away from what they’re afraid of will only reinforce and fuel their anxiety. This also means that they’re missing out on opportunities to develop coping skills and prove they can deal with what’s making them nervous next time is comes up.
Teach Them About Coping With Anxiety
The first most important thing you can do is to help them learn on how to cope with anxiety. This is not only a temporary solution, but it is a lifelong tool that they will use once they’re adults too. This isn’t always easy because kids naturally resist direction and instructions, especially when they do not understand the reason why they’re doing things.
10 Things You Can Do While Traveling With Anxious Children
Start by slowing down. Kids look up to the adults in their lives, so if you are a wound up person (like admittedly I am at times) you will find that they mimic this behaviour. If you show them that you are slowing down by for instance taking a break during the day (at a random unscheduled time) to watch a movie with them or read a book. They are more likely to be less anxious day after day.
Before your trip, prepare them about it. The best strategy on how to travel with an anxious kid? Prepare and talk about it a LOT before you embark. The more information you can give them about this trip, the less anxious they will be. Remember kids are usually surprised by events during the day because they aren’t told about them. It’s easy for us adults to forget this.
Encourage positive thinking. Tell your children about this trip and how much fun it’ll be. Be sure to use positive language, along with things they will be most excited to do. If there’s a zoo or a play station for kids, you can talk about that to them so they can imagine how much fun they will have once they’re there.
Model helpful coping. Show the kids that you are also nervous but the way you are coping with it. For instance, it’s a great way to model positive coping behaviour. Anxious kids normally do not know what to do when the worrisome thoughts enter their minds. Show them that they can write them down in a journal so they are out of their heads and in the book. This means they cannot think about them anymore, they belong to the book. If they can’t write yet, try encouraging them to speak about what is making them nervous.
Be over prepared. When travelling with kids, there is no such thing as prepared ENOUGH. There will always be something you forgot to do or to bring (which then you will remind yourself of bringing on the next trip) and then if you’re like me, forgetting it again. This is why I usually write a summary of our trip or a ‘trip journal’ if you like where you could write about things that happened. Before your next trip, you can read through it and be sure to include everything you had written down that you missed in the last trip.
Be sure to pack ALL your red cross items like the ibuprofen, band-aids and kids cough medicine – you never know what you could encounter there and it’ll save you having to run off in the middle of the night trying to find an open chemist. And don’t forget that change of clothes!
Making the car or airplane ride more pleasant. Many of us arrive at our destination after a long-haul 10+ hour plane ride to only declare you are done with your holiday and sleep through the first 6 hours of the day. Add in the kids to the mix and you’ve got a 24 hour snoozer on the lookout for sure! Anxious and impatient children aren’t good traveler – and for good reason. They don’t know what is happening. They often need to be reminded that everything is OK. Be sure to have some busy bags, busy books (like this fall busy book here and this summer busy book here) and some fiddle toys they can entertain themselves with. Have you heard of Boom Cards? This app is amazing for kids, you can buy any game you like and save it to your app on the go and play it over and over. Many of the games are also educational – it’s a win win.
See some of our EASY to create DIY busy bag printables:
- Coping Skills Wheel for Kids
- Social Skills Printables and Activities for Kids
- Play Dough Learning Mats
Let your children pack and bring their own backpacks. This is an excellent way to create a sense of responsibility in your child. it also helps them feel more at ease knowing that their ‘security’ items are in their bag and within their reach whenever they need it. Be sure to keep the activities you created for your kids in your bag though, gift wrap each activity and give them out at separate intervals to keep them busy until you reach your destination.
Bring the most comfortable clothes and shoes. This isn’t the time to bring your newly bought cute Bonds dress you bought for your daughter. You never know how uncomfortable it’ll be for her and so keep those clothes with the tags on at home and travel light with comfy ones.
Keeping bedtime as close as possible to what bedtime at home looks like. This will be difficult especially when trying to travel light, but having a few pieces that your son or daughter hold onto as security like a blanket or a doll can make all the difference between an exhausting few days of nightmare bedtimes and a somewhat easy one.
More behaviour management ideas you might like: