Helping Children (and Ourselves) Adjust to a new Family Travel Lifestyle
I am not a psychiatrist or an expert on parenting, if I was maybe I wouldn’t be writing this post.
Hell, if I was I probably wouldn’t have quit my job and bought tickets halfway around the world.
But, I have been traveling 6 weeks now with my wife and 2 small children taking on roadschooling, sharing often small rooms and small beds in confined places and traveling through some difficult to negotiate places.
I have been learning to manage a fledgling online business with spotty internet and very limited connections.
Almost every day I bookmark something that I will turn to as a highlight in my book of life. Everyday our learning and life experience grows exponentially.
My children have been asked to break out of every comfortable routine they have ever had, my wife and I have had to learn to work as a strong and unified team, we have all had to learn to work together.
Rooming together has had its ups and downs. It has led to some real memorable bedtime talks as a family that I will never forget, also it has led to children rolling off beds, legs on our heads, long periods of involuntary abstinence and difficult evenings when everybody is tired (most notably the two times after we had 23 hour flights!)
Many parenting books talk about giving children space to vent and cool off if they are overtired and are throwing a fit. This is not so hard when you are in the comfort of your home, in a hotel at 11pm when everyone is sleeping or in a long line after 2 hours of sitting in customs this can be very challenging.
I wrote both my parents the other day describing some of the difficulties we have experienced over the last two weeks:
Our six year olds resistance to homeschooling.
Some truly epic meltdowns when everyone is overtired, hungry or thirsty.
There were several times in the past 2 weeks that I was ready to throw in the proverbial towel and just book a flight home already. Family travel is great when everyone is happy, but when people are overtired, overheated and in search of a good meal things can go sour pretty fast.
My mom, a schoolteacher of 30 years, who raised my sister and I, is the epitome of zen in the face of a childhood meltdown.
She had this to say:
I really found this to be true in dealing with children. They don’t know what is wrong or have the skills to cope so they act out. Many adults have the same lack of skills!
She hit the nail on the head on this one!
Sometimes in the middle of a truly wonderful day one of our children will act out over what seems to be the tiniest things.
This has been amplified over the last 2 weeks.
It can present as rudeness, a lack of empathy, bickering, complaining etc. etc.
I believe it all has a common core, one that requires we as parents to react with love, empathy and a calm demeanor.
Beyond the culture, beyond the animals, beyond the unique smells, new foods and amazing people there is something else that can grow out of family travel.
A strong family:
One that treats each other and everyone around them with respect
A family that reacts with kindness and love in all situations
A family that has a desire to understand and identify with the struggles of others
A family that respects one another
That embraces lifelong learning
These things, which I thought were simple and obvious become more difficult when we are stressed.
Travel does create stress, which can lead to cracks in your armor. It has exposed many of my own, and I believe at the end of the year it will be this mission, this goal to become a stronger more loving and generous family that will be our greatest reward as well as our greatest challenge!