Vacations and the Young Child
By: Vivian Dubovoy Perlo
Winter break is here! Many families are looking forward to spending some special moments together. I wanted to share with you some suggestions to keep in mind when you have a young child at home:
- The first and most important thing to remember is that children live in the moment; they might have to be given some time to warm up even to our closest relatives. Children do not develop the sense of time (e.g., “yesterday”, “in one hour”, “you will see them again tomorrow”) and therefore benefit greatly from knowing how their day will be like. Prepare your child; let him/her know who you are going to meet, if they are to be seated at a restaurant or who you will receive at home. If you have photos to show that would be even better.
- Children thrive on routine and vacation time is characterized by the change of flow. Children eventually learn about this switch of schedule during vacation times but it is hard to grasp for a younger child; this doesn’t mean skipping the activities but altogether trying to respect their routine as much as possible. If you are traveling remember to bring some item that makes them feel at home elsewhere, like a book you read at night, a blanket or a favorite toy.
- Children love to help and it is a great way to keep them busy and involved. Let them help in setting the table, preparing food and welcoming guests. These activities help the child getting used to the guests at the house and also allow family to get to know your child better without him/her having to perform for them.
- Keep your expectations real; if your child feels overwhelmed by too many adults this is not going to change just because we want them to be in their best behavior. As adults, we have a better idea of how we want to spend our vacation time or holiday season, but for the child being offered our time, patience, understanding and love is the best way to spend their vacation time.
- Don’t overload your days as this is usually the trigger to more emotional moments; children and parents at the end of the day are tired and feeling overwhelmed. Plan activities according to what your child can manage (e.g., going to the Zoo and looking at the elephants or the gorillas) and also activities you enjoy yourself.
- For the young child it is important when planning a trip to remember they need to touch, climb and move. Try to avoid places where they need to stand in long lines and remember the real world is interesting enough for a child under the age of six. Try to keep your trips based on reality and not fantasy as children need tangible experiences to make sense of the world around them (e.g., going for a walk, smelling the flowers, collecting stones, building a sandcastle).
- Be mindful that if you traveled to visit family or friends or welcomed guests at your home, that your child will need some time to get used to going back to the routine; especially when loved ones leave. Children are very sensitive to change and do not comprehend fully at this time the concept of saying good-bye (as opposed to the everyday bye-bye) and many times keep looking for the guests or relatives. Showing them pictures of the activities you enjoyed together might help them ease through the transition.
… filled with much love, joy and blessings!