Are you traveling with children affected by ADHD or anxiety? Tips for Smooth Sailing – Chicago Sun-Times | Gmx Pharm

Traveling can be difficult for everyone, especially little ones — but there are ways to make your family vacation less stressful.

“Changing our daily routine can be unsettling for many of us, but especially for children who thrive in environments that are consistent and predictable,” says Melissa Dowd, therapist at PlushCare, a virtual primary care and mental health platform. “Add to this a child struggling with anxiety, sensory issues, ADHD or other challenges, and travel can prove to be quite stressful.”

To make your family vacation go smoother, minimize stress and maximize fun, we asked experts to share their tips.

Bring snacks for children

Aside from keeping parents calm and organized, make sure the child is slept and fed before the trip, says Rebecca Jackson, vice president of programs and outcomes at Brain Balance, a learning program for children with developmental and learning disabilities.

“Nobody likes to be hungry,” says Jackson. “Our brains need fuel to function and behave. When we run out of fuel, we have less control at any age. Remember, the younger you are, the harder it is to control your mood and behavior.”

Sleep is another important factor, Jackson says: “A tired brain isn’t good for you.”

“To really set yourself up for success for the whole family, you have to make sure you’re still getting good sleep,” she says. “One of my pet pet peeve is that as parents we so often do things that don’t make our kids succeed, and then we get mad at them when they break down or are uncooperative. But sometimes we’re the ones who chose to skip naps or keep them up hours past bedtime.”

Keep things familiar

“The nature of travel breaks our routine: the destination is often unknown,” says Dowd. “There are stimuli we are not used to. We often sit in cars or planes for long periods of time, so quarters are cramped and our sleep schedules are disrupted and disrupted. Regardless of what a child is struggling with, it’s so important to keep the routine similar to what it would be like at home.”

Dowd says this could include things like:

  • Keep your child’s regular bedtime and timing.
  • Maintain healthy eating options as much as possible.
  • Set clear expectations and agendas at the beginning of each day to help your child feel safe and settled in the new environment.
  • Pay attention to your child’s signals.

Dealing with a meltdown

The first step to dealing with a child’s breakdown is knowing it’s going to happen, Jackson says.

When it comes down to it, “find a quiet place,” says Jackson. “This is not the time to lecture your child about their behavior or actions. This is just a reset – calm, cool, calm… so you can get back to the fun.”

Traveling can make someone anxious because there are so many unknowns.

“A great way to ensure everyone feels included and having fun is to allow each family member to choose an activity to do during the trip,” says Dowd. “It allows each member to feel special and is a great way to spend quality family time.”

To keep kids entertained on planes or long car rides, consider bringing portable, age-appropriate distractions like jigsaw puzzles.

to pack things

To keep kids entertained on a long drive or even at the airport, consider bringing some portable distractions like video games.

For non-tech options, Jackson suggests bringing small but age-appropriate activities that engage the senses to keep the mood positive and distract the kids. Like books, crayons, and small containers of playdough or soap bubbles.

if your child issensitive to loud noises, consider noise-cancelling headphones.

And to avoid discomfort during a flight takeoff, bring something that will help prevent or relieve ear pressure, like chewing gum or a lollipop.

Don’t be hard on yourself

Parents deserve a break too.

“I encourage parents to exercise patience, flexibility, and grace with everyone involved, including themselves,” says Dowd. “Travelling can be stressful for anyone, and we often put pressure on ourselves to make the trip perfect. If we can relax ourselves and others a bit and focus on the true intentions we have set for our summer trip, it will likely be that much more enjoyable.

“Plan as best you can and know that not everything will go according to plan. And that’s okay.”

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