There, I’ve said it.
But seriously. . . Think about the strain vacations put on a child: traveling in a hot car, sitting still on a plane, taking in all the new surroundings and strange faces, sleeping in an unfamiliar bed, and coping with an uprooted family routine. With all these variables, even a dream vacation is bound to create some stress for your child.
Much of the tension for children comes from their feeling a lack of control over the situation.
So, once you get unpacked and settled in at your vacation destination, try to let your child relax
and gain back some of that lost control by being in charge for a while.
Step #1. Give out an official title — Bend your knees, get down to your child’s eye level, and let him or her know in plain words, “You’re the official Family Leader this morning/afternoon.” Most children will grin from ear to ear at hearing these words.
Step #2. Truly turn the tables — Give your child the responsibility of keeping track of YOU. Say something like, “As the leader, it’s your job to always know where Mom or Dad is. Until lunchtime/dinnertime, YOU are in charge of watching ME.” (Even though you’re handing over this duty, be sure if your child gets distracted, he or she is still safely in your view.) Here’s some specific ideas of vacation Yes Moments:
~If you are at an amusement park, have your child decide which ride to go on next. Go get in line — even if you’ve already ridden it 12 times. Even if it has a SUPER LONG line. Even if it’s inappropriate for their age. Let the You-must-be-this-tall sign say “No” instead of you. That’s real-life teaching at its best.
~If you’re eating at a restaurant, have your child give his or her own order to the server. Consider planting fun suggestions like, “You’re in charge here. Should we order dessert first?”
~If you’re at a sandy beach, have your child be the head architect and you be his or her minion. Nothing pleases a child more than saying, “Dig, Mom! Dig!”
~If you’re hiking, have your child set the pace. Stop for every acorn.
Admire every leaf. And be sure to avoid saying, “Come on” or “Hurry up!
Step #3. Mean it — Don’t say it unless you truly mean it. Let your child really take the lead with where you go and don’t go, with what you do and don’t do. Follow through with your Turn the Table game and play by the rules.
While a commitment to the game is necessary, may I offer a few caveats:
- Offer leadership within limits. Don’t make it a “Yes Day” (Are you familiar with this popular children’s book?). The average child can’t handle a full “Yes Day” successfully — especially while on vacation. Don’t set your child up to fail. Pick a designated period of time. You can loosely say, “this afternoon” or you can be more specific and say, “for an hour.” Children will benefit from a period of yes moments. They don’t need an entire day where they get every crazy thing their little hearts desire.
- Have a Bailout Plan. Most children are well behaved when designated as the leader. If there is a meltdown or any serious problem, simply pull out your Love & Logic card. Kindly say to your little one, “This is so sad. Don’t worry. We can try again tomorrow.”
So, why not give ’er a try? Handing your child back a little control over an unfamiliar environment can really help calm nerves.
Where are you traveling this summer? Do you need help brainstorming safe Yes Moments for your child during your family vacation? Let’s chat in the comments.
PS: Thank you to Tiffany Dahle of Peanut Blossom for sharing the first two vacation photos. Find more travel tips from Tiffany on her site and on her Pinterest boards: Wanderlust, Road Trippin, and Simple Disney Magic.
Also, this summer our family is heading to the Black Hills. We are excited to hike in this national park. Here are six of our favorite Melissa & Doug toys for discovering nature! Click the image to see the full collection of Sunny Patch adventure toys.
Every Thursday through July, the Melissa & Doug blog — The Playtime Press — will give you the inside scoop from three top-rated blogger moms on their favorite tips & tricks for families on the go. Whether your travel plans include visiting a nearby city or heading clear across the country, your child will savor all the exciting adventures to be had along the way.
Be sure to pop on over to Pinterest to see the Melissa & Doug Traveling with Kids board!
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