The holiday season is here! Some of us with young children are still thinking about whether we should go on a trip with our young ones as the month of November and December creeps in.
The braver and spirited parents among us though may already have everything booked and are all set for the year-end adventure.
While many are blessed with children who have mild personalities, are used to travelling or are fuss-free, many parents are equally blessed with children who are strong-willed, opinionated and have specific needs for various things. But regardless of children’s personalities, the question that often crosses our minds when discussing a trip would be, how can we deal with all the temper tantrums, meltdowns and major crankiness that may erupt on the journey?
Well, more often than not, babies and children, in general, are tougher than we give them credit for. And one of the loveliest things about young children is that they are very forgiving human beings. As parents, we can lose our cool at them, sometimes forgetting to respect our children by saying horrid things to them or even make unintentional bad decisions. But if we apologise to them, we will often notice that they will forgive us immediately and love us all the same. All is often well with a good night's sleep. Disclaimer – Do try your level best not to lose it daily and then apologising to the point of damaging their will and self-esteem though. As with everything in life, balance is key.
C’est la vie. So carpe diem! Just click the button, book the tickets or plan the drive, if you were thinking about it. And if you have already taken the leap of faith and are looking for some tips on how to manage those temper tantrums during travels, here is some food for thought as you start planning for your trip with your loved ones.
1. Understand the reasons behind meltdowns and temper tantrums.
Tantrums are a normal part of child development. They are often symptoms of a child struggling with emotions that they find hard to regulate. At times, there are other underlying issues beneath the frequent tantrums or meltdowns too, such as sensory disorders or other childhood-related issues. So it’s alright if you encounter your child throwing a tantrum on trips at times. It's bound to happen at any given time throughout childhood, your travels included!
2. Know your children well. Identify their trigger points and prevent an oncoming meltdown if possible.
If your child tends to get cranky when they are hungry for instance, remember to bring along some snacks for the journey. Allow them to chew on some food or snacks during take-off if you know that the pressure on the ears bothers them, use some natural remedies before the ride if your child has motion sickness or perhaps ensure that they sleep early the night before the trip by treating it as a normal day instead of getting them all excited about the trip the next day. You know your child best. If you know what usually makes them cranky and try to put in the necessary measures to prevent the outbursts, you might see fewer meltdowns along the trip.
3. Be prepared for medical needs and emergencies. Bring along essential medication and take note of medical facilities at host destinations
Sudden changes in weather temperatures, lack of rest, unfamiliar food or being in a confined area such as the aeroplane may result in your child feeling unwell and uncomfortable. Having the appropriate medication at hand may help to ease your child’s discomfort faster.
4. Keep calm whenever possible and manage your expectations
Skip the tightly schedule holiday tours and if possible, opt for a free and easy trip. In this way, you can avoid rushing your children which may result in temper tantrums. If travelling with a group of children, don’t assume that your older children do not need attention. They may also feel uneasy about certain things, so it would be good to watch out for their trigger signs too. Since we know that travelling may upset a usual routine in a child’s life, it might be worth being a bit more relaxed on few things you may be stricter about at home, for example, an ice cream or two, an extra candy, extended time on devices, a new toy or book for the journey or anything else that may distract them from the discomfort of a long trip.
However, do take note that this may be counterproductive for some children too, as they may prefer something predictable when everything else is unpredictable, so perhaps pack one of their favourite comfort toys, have more frequent breastfeeds for infants, etc. Choose the strategies that will work well with your own children and if you don’t know yet which will work, every trip you take will give you more insights on that ☺
5. Arrange for a lunch date or date night with your spouse, partner or family members before the trip
Have some couple time before a family trip to reaffirm love for each other. Bringing kids on a trip requires teamwork. So it might be worth having a conversation about expectations so that you are on the same page and to let each other know that you have each other’s back no matter what. If going with family members, it would also be good to talk about what you would be comfortable with or share some strategies that you were planning in your head. It is always great to have support.
6. Travel light and use minimalist packing strategies
The last thing you want to do while travelling and coping with your children is excessive baggage. It might be easier to wear your baby in a lot of different cities and most babies love being close to you. But if you prefer and need the stroller, pack along a light and easily foldable stroller. If you need a car seat, it might be worth bringing a 2-in-1 car seat stroller instead of bringing it separately. And if you are travelling to a cold country, you might want to pack only one coat for each person or a thick sweater with long johns. Winter clothing is often cheaper to purchase in the country experiencing winter at that point in time. It might be worth doing some shopping once you have settled into the hotel instead of purchasing it from your home country and lugging heavy winter clothing everywhere. Besides, you will look a lot less like a tourist ☺
7. Read stories about travelling and talk to your child about it before the trip
Read some stories about travelling, for example, taking a plane or about the country that you are visiting. This may help children feel a better sense of control and assist in them managing their own emotions on the trip. Providing children with the vocabulary to express their thoughts and how they are feeling give children the option of expressing themselves through words instead of screaming and shouting. This tends to help to shorten their periods of tantrums and meltdowns. Sometimes, all you need to do is to remind them to use words instead of cry or shout and that you are there to listen.
8. Put together travel activities and simple games for long flights or rides
We have often heard and read about how some boredom is sometimes good for our children. I absolutely believe in this, just perhaps not while travelling and every single routine is out of whack. For variety sake, it might be worth to pack some light activities, simple activity bags and travel games that you can use to engage the children on the trip. Yes, ‘I spy’ and charades count too! (And you don’t need any extra materials for these ☺)
9. Use priority lines or arrange for express check-in whenever possible to avoid long waits that are not necessary. You can also consider picking a holiday destination where the airport and attractions are not too busy
A little extra planning and research sometimes go a long way in ensuring that the family trip is more pleasant for everyone. Especially if it is going to be your first trip with the young ones, choose destinations that may be easier to manage depending on your children’s needs and personalities.
10. Take night flights for long haul flights and front row or aisle seats whenever possible for short flights. Try to reserve a bassinet for babies on a night flight
Where possible, you may want to choose flight timings that best align with your child's sleep patterns (i.e. a flight that takes off immediately prior to your child's normal bedtime, as this hopefully means they'll be asleep for a large portion of the flight). If travelling on a night flight with an infant, check whether it's possible to reserve bassinet where they can sleep during your flight. If you're travelling on short flights, opt for an aisle or front row seats so it's easier to get up and move around if your child needs it.
11. Research and take note of kids-friendly spaces and attractions prior to the trip
There are plenty of lovely kids’ activity venues that are affordable everywhere around the world. In some countries, there are loads of free attractions and activities for young children. For example, the natural history museum in London, which does not require payment for entry, except for selected exhibitions and Tropical Islands in Krausnick, Germany where children 5 years and below enter for free. Popular Southeast Asian travel destinations such as Bali, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, etc have a fair share of awesome children play areas and activities too. Free parks and playgrounds are also worth considering. For older kids, you can take the chance to allow them to engage in sports or cultural related activities.
12. Choose your battles and strike a balance. Cut it short if you have to
Sometimes, the best-laid plans do fail. For example, no matter how tempting the food at a restaurant is, if you know that your children have had enough for the day, there is no shame in cutting the day short and having a takeaway. Children are continuously learning to build character and traits such as perseverance. But it does not make sense to expect them to have already mastered it. So, cut your day short if you need to when the children’s mood, or yours for that matter, don’t seem to be at its best.
13. Don’t let negative comments, judging looks or lack of sensitivity from any members of the public get you down
Sometimes while in shared spaces like the plane or in queues you might encounter people who may not be understanding of your child's needs (for example, if they're throwing a tantrum). And that's ok! While we should always be considerate of people around us, we can't always control the circumstances. If people aren't understanding of that and don't take kindly to the challenges of travelling with kids, don't let it get to you. Just brush it off and move on as best you can! The great news is you won't always encounter such people, and as a matter of fact, you're just as likely to meet strangers who are completely understanding and interact with you and your children positively and with empathy. Enjoy those interactions :)
14. Enjoy the scenery while basking in the beauty of Allah’s creation and give thanks for being given the gift of life, good health as well as the opportunity to create special memories with your loved ones.
Credit: @aishahyusof on Instagram
Not everyone is blessed with the opportunity to travel for leisure with their children, so take the time to savour these moments you get to enjoy with your children! Teach your young ones to learn to appreciate this too. This should energise you to handle a tantrum or two right? ?
15. Keep an open mind, don’t be too hard on yourself, enjoy the trip and learn along with your child
No tantrums last forever. Even the best kind of parent who's loving, patient and involved has had to endure their child screaming their heads off in public or carried a wildly struggling child under their arm out of a public area at least once. So enjoy your parenting journey and the moments spent with your children, tantrums and all!
Besides, if the holiday did not turn out as smooth as we hoped it to be, there is always the next trip Insha’Allah, which hopefully will be an improved version based on the experience and reflection of the first trip. And that one picture that we somehow managed to snap in spite of everything to be uploaded on social media for remembrance sake ☺ Happy holidays everyone and have a safe trip!
Mariana is the co-founder of Artsy Affair. Artsy Affair organises pop-up art tables and art parties for birthday celebrations, private and corporate events. It also organises pop-up art/play tables for children in retail spaces. Artsy Affair was born out of its founders’ love for play, process art and working with young children. We are strong advocates for thoughtful expression in children, through varied forms of art. Thus Artsy Affair is our art-filled, creative and (most importantly) fun project made with little ones in mind. You can find Artsy Affair on Facebook and also Instagram (@artsy_affair)