By Mia Von Scha, Transformational Coach, motivational speaker, children’s author, student to two Zen Masters (aka kids), avid cloud watcher and lover of life. It seldom occurs to us when planning an exciting holiday with our children that they might find it stressful. We forget that holidays often mean venturing into the great unknown and have kids feeling anything from mild nerves to downright terror. We are so busy planning a welcome break that we often don’t notice our little one’s stress until they’re acting out in weird ways. Leaving the comfort of what they know for something different we might find them throwing tantrums in the midst of our beach paradise.
Creating certainty through routine
The key to transforming holiday stress into satisfaction for the entire family is in understanding a child’s need for certainty. We all need a sense of certainty to feel ok in our lives – we like to know where our next meal is coming from, that we have a roof over our heads and some cash in the bank and that most people will stick to driving on the left hand side of the road. Without some certainty we all feel like the carpet is being pulled out from under us and we’re not sure how to react or what to expect. For children, much of their certainty comes from having a sense of routine. Small things like knowing that stories always come before brushing teeth, which comes before bed. This simple sense of knowing what comes next and what to expect helps them to feel that their worlds are still functioning as they should.
While we welcome a break from routine when on holiday – later nights, skipping meals, a lack of routine and order – many kids would enjoy their holidays far more (and therefore allow you to do the same) if you kept some of their familiar routines whilst away. Bring familiar items along with you This can help them with their sense of security and certainty – a favourite teddy, their own duvet or pillow, a few of their books and toys. Prepare children well in advance about what to expect:
- if you’re visiting a new place – Google the place you are going to and show them pictures. Let them get involved with planning what you’re going to do. If you’re travelling overseas or somewhere with a different culture / food / language make sure they have some exposure to this beforehand-take them to a restaurant that serves the food, look for books about the country in the library, and spend some time on the net.
- if your children are going to be doing something different like flying in an airplane, taking a bus or train or engaging in some new activity like snorkeling, give them as much information as possible about what to expect. Ask them how they feel about doing this and address any fears that arise. Often children won’t tell us they’re afraid directly but will start acting up in order to avoid what scares them. Tackling this head on by asking them beforehand shows that you care and that you’re not just expecting them to be as excited as you. I can remember my 5-year-old crying to me before one trip we made because we were going to stay overnight in a youth hostel and she was afraid she wouldn’t know where the bathroom was. It seems obvious to us as adults (with our wealth of experience in different places) that we’ll figure out where the bathroom is when we get there, but to a child who has no such prior knowledge to draw on this can be a serious concern.
In short, for a smoother, less traumatic holiday all round, make sure your children still have some routine on holiday, that they have something familiar to relate to, and that you provide them with plenty of information beforehand. Happy travelling!! Note: If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the uniquely detailed free weekly newsletter for parents in Gauteng – Jozikids – or KwaZulu-Natal – Kznkids.