Settling your child into a holiday abroad
Foreign holidays can upset a child's routine but a few simple tips will ensure an easier time with less tantrums...
Published 15/05/2014 | 11:58
Over the past 20 years I have travelled with many families who were looking for a little help on holidays with their kids.
Each time I was doing a job, so I was pretty focused on making sure everyone was enjoying themselves and that parents were able to have a break during the stay. This past week, our whole family travelled to the South of France for my sister’s wedding – grandparents, aunts, uncles and, of course, the two nieces (aged 5 and 2.5). We all stayed in a massive villa so that we could be together. Before we left, we were talking about the holiday to the kids and about how we were going to have so much fun together. There was a swimming pool and a beach nearby so we knew they would enjoy it. We had it all covered, and excitement was high!
For me though, this time I watched the children from a different perspective. There were moments where the little one seemed so confused – she didn’t know which end was up. At bedtime, she would ask, “Are we in France?” It seemed to play on her mind a bit. The older dolly, on a few occasions, said, “I remember Dublin” and “I remember our garden” (or trampoline, or whatever). It seemed that no matter how much we felt we had prepared them, there was something not quite sitting right with them. It got me thinking about how it must seem to them when we uproot little people and take them out of their comfort zones. Day-to-day routine goes out the window and anything goes. And although they had buckets of fun, kids like to know the lie of the land and what’s happening next.
The five year old was able to articulate how she was feeling, so it was easier for her. The smaller one found it more difficult to say how she felt so, for her, the little things became a big deal. My sister and brother-in-law were great at picking up on this and sometimes rather than being reprimanded, she was scooped up and hugged and cuddled and squeezed with love. They were right: there’s a time and a place for everything. My sister couldn’t wait to get them home and put a little shape back in their lives.
Still, there were also a few moments when the smallest of the pair simply had meltdowns because she was unsure of herself (and the fact that she’s two and a half and that’s what she does best!). In theory having all the adults around was great – loads of people to watch them. But in reality, there were all these people they love but who have different styles and different rules … and maybe too many chiefs for our little Indians - they were all over the shop!
I went for a lovely walk with the youngest one along the promenade of Juan les Pins on our last day. As we wandered along eating ice-cream she turned to me and said, “Just you and me, Niamhy!” I melted. She just needed a break from her “holiday”. You’ve heard the term, “I need a holiday after that holiday” – and I think that’s what she was trying to tell me. On the flight home, they asked if they were going to their holiday home! We had just left it four hours earlier!
That is not to say that we didn’t have a truly wonderful week. The tricky moments with the kids were few and far between but they still resonated with me. I’m not sure that the kids will remember their little internal struggles with life on holidays but I think it’s worth mentioning. It’s all new, yet this newness isn’t completely comfortable. It takes getting used to. If we feel this way as adults, then surely our children are not exempt.
Helping your child cope with a change of scenery
We plan these trips and more often than not we do it for the kids. The reality is, that change can be tough on the little ones and perhaps we should be mindful of it when we travel with them. Here are a few tips to help with the “newness overload”:
1. Manage your expectations a little. Holidays before kids were a very different animal.
2. Stick to your normal nighttime routines as best you can. Bring their favourite books and pyjamas.
3. Allow some parts of your day to be the same as at home, such as mealtimes.
4. Tantrums can still happen – they’re not selective about location! Kids don’t misbehave because they want to, but confusion and a little frustration can come into play on holidays.
5. If travelling with extended family, don’t be influenced by others’ opinions on how your children should behave. You are the parents: you set the rules! So don’t give opportunities for mayhem by relaxing the boundaries too much.
6. If you can take a bit of time for just you and your partner, do it! It’s amazing what a bit of breathing space will do.
But most of all, have fun. Lots of it!
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