A global education. A better perspective of the world. Respect for nature. Compassion for how other people live. An appreciation and gratitude for what we have.
These are some of the reasons we justify travelling with our children. And while all of these are possible outcomes of family travel, I speak from experience when I say they don’t guarantee your child will be any more worldly or appreciative in the moment. It may take time – even years – for them to recognize the value of their experience. While we hope our children will appreciate these wonderful benefits of travel, my husband and I travel with our children for much more selfish reasons: We want to nurture our relationships with each other and with our children. We feel it is easier to connect and bond with our children away from day-to-day distractions and expectations.
Here are some tips to help make the most of your family time together to TALK and connect with each other.
1. Limit roaming data plans
Sure, you can physically leave home but if you stay digitally connected to everyone at home it will be difficult to fully participate and enjoy your new surroundings. In the absence of their peers, I always enjoy watching my kids interact and joke with each other! When the distraction of technology is minimized we create an easy, argument-free environment to engage with our children.
2. Agree to focus on the present
So little Johnny or Jane made you mad as hell (again!) a day before your trip and this is what you’re thinking: “I don’t think I can be with him without losing it.” “ It will seem like we are rewarding his poor behaviour; he doesn’t deserve to come with us.” “If I don’t stay mad he’s is going to think he can get away with it.”
Try to separate the behaviour that triggered your anger from your trip. Let Jane or Johnny know how you feel about what happened and if the issue is not fully resolved before you leave, let him know that you will be continuing the discussion when you return. When you are away make a point of enjoying the moment and don’t raise the issue even in jest (unless, of course, it is directly related to the present situation). When you return, be sure to let him know a) how much you enjoyed your time together and b) when you will resume your discussion about his unacceptable behaviour prior to the trip.
3. Get everyone’s input on what to do and try to plan something for everyone
Opening up the discussion on what there is to see and do in a new destination is a great way to engage kids. It is also a great opportunity to show them how to compromise and be patient. Your children will feel heard if at least some of the activities you do meet their interest. (This could be something as simple as heading back to the hotel early and going for a swim before dinner.)
4. Ask questions
Sounds easy enough, right? Trust me, it isn’t but with practice it will get easier! The point of this is to show interest in your child. Not the “What marks did you get? Did you eat all your lunch? Have you done your homework?” kind of interest (slash nagging). Rather, the “Which YouTubers do you follow? What do you like about them?” kind of interest. The trick is to try to engage in dialogue where there are no right or wrong answers. This is a great technique for building trust, and honing listening skills. (Use this technique when you are at home, too! It will come in handy when more challenging issues arise.)
Some children engage more easily than others. Try sharing your own stories, to help trigger your child’s memory of something worth sharing. It could even be a random story you heard on the radio or something that happened to a friend or how you felt when you first saw the Mona Lisa (she’s so small!) You can learn a lot about your child by watching how they react to the story. Try to keep it light and fun!
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Bio: Noony Santos Paletta is a registered dietitian who believes healthy living should be simple + fun! She is a co-owner of the Vancouver based company, iUBER wellness, which promotes a balanced approach to health by focusing on 4 key areas: EATing, PLAYing, SLEEPing, and TALKing. Noony enjoys a healthy lifestyle at home and while travelling with her husband and 3 children. She believes healthy living can include Captain Crunch for breakfast at the campsite, chocolate croissants in Paris, gelato in Italy, gulab jamun in India, as well as other culinary treats! You can find her and practical tips for your healthy lifestyle at iuber.ca
What do you do to engage your children and get them TALKing when you are travelling?