Family Travel A to Z: Anxiety
Anxiety possibly does not immediately come to mind when you are thinking about a holiday. You may be focusing instead on relaxation or exhilaration or romance or fun. But when you are holidaying with the family, anxiety can rear its ugly head in a few ways.
As a parent, you may be anxious about travelling with your children, particularly when it comes to flights or sailing. Will they behave themselves? Will they be sick? Will they be able to sleep? Will anyone else be able to sleep?
You may worry about the holiday itself – will the entire family enjoy it? Will you have the chance to breathe and relax yourself? Will it be worth the expense? Have you packed everything? Have you got everything in place, ready to go?
Kids can also feel anxiety too. If very young, they may not completely understand what is going on. They may be scared about flying. They may be worried about being away from home and the comfort of their own room, bed and toys.
Some children may be reluctant to try new things or have new experiences. Others may miss their friends and their technology at home. Whatever the source of concern, nearly every child will feel some moment of anxiety when contemplating or embarking on a major family holiday.
We have two children on the autism spectrum so we are used to dealing with their day-to-day anxieties but we are still feeling our way when it comes to managing anxiety and family travel. After successful trips to New Zealand and the US, we have learned to focus on the following strategies to help our kids feel less anxious when travelling.
6 STRATEGIES FOR MANAGING FAMILY HOLIDAY ANXIETY
Develop a travel itinerary for the kids
Consider developing a travel itinerary for the kids. It can be a simple word document which can be printed out and stapled for everyday use or it can also be saved into pdf format so it can be read on an iPad or other mobile device. In the itinerary, list where you’ll be going, include maps and photos of your destination, talk about some of the things you may do and give your kids a place to write their thoughts and feelings as they travel. Giving them a visual guide to refer to, really does make the world of difference in preparing your kids for the trip to come.
Seek their input
To minimise stress and anxiety and to ensure everyone has a fantastic time, it’s important to seek your kids input when planning a holiday. This gives them the chance to have their say and for you to also put forward what YOU would like to do too. The kids become more invested in the holiday and you get a glimpse into what they are wanting to get out of it as well. It really makes a lot of sense. You can also follow this up by showing YouTube videos or looking at relevant websites to help your kids know what to expect – this also assists in helping them decide what they would prefer to do.
Build rest time into each day
It is so important to build rest time into your itinerary. It can be hard to justify slowing down when you have limited time in a particular place but taking it slowly and not pushing too hard will definitely make the holiday a greater success and minimise anxiety. Even if you have a punishing schedule, it pays to carve out opportunities to just splash about by the pool or have lazy mornings to recover when it all gets too much. And it will – so it’s better to be prepared for the overwhelm rather than have it consume the entire holiday.
Take a backpack with activities & favourite belongings
Depending on their age, get the kids to carry their own backpacks with activities for the trip and their favourite belongings for a sense of comfort. The backpacks can be used during the holiday also carry water, jumpers and headphones while you are tripping about during the day. Just make sure you put a tag on the bag with your child’s name, your contact number and a little bit about them, in case they get lost or separated. That way you should be quickly and easily reunited should the worst happen on your travels.
Make time to talk about the holiday each day
Each night at dinner (or another time in the day that you are all together as a family) talk about the holiday. Talking about your plans can help ease most fears and can also give your kids insight into what might happen while you are away. These conversations will give you the chance to discuss the behaviours you expect from them and the fun they will be sure to have. Talking about the holiday will help increase levels of excitement and will allow you to find out what they are most excited about and better plan the activities you will be enjoying as a family.
Plan to have fun!
A holiday can be stressful. It’s easy to be caught up in the planning and in the stress of everything that has to be done and inevitably you can feel anxiety too. So ensure you plan to have fun too. Build things in that YOU want to do as well. Book the kids into kids clubs for certain periods during the trip so you can do things as a couple and have a restorative break yourselves. Make sure you sound excited when you talk to the kids about the trip and emphasise that this is going to be fun – this will help ease any fears and gee everyone up to have a great trip!
Do you have any suggestions about managing family holiday anxiety to add to the list?
Learn even more strategies, systems and tools to successfully travel as an autism family in our new guide – click on the image below to get your copy today!