With holiday season fast approaching, child psychologist Dr Richard Woolfson explains how to make journeys less problematic
Whether it’s a long drive in the car, a train trip or a flight, summer travel with your toddler is likely to figure quite big in your life around now. It’s easy to hope she’ll sleep, but your child is an aware and active being, which means travel can be daunting.
Like us, toddlers would rather do something other than sit still with a seatbelt on. Your toddler doesn’t fully understand distance yet, so a journey quickly bores her.Pitch why you’re going and what she’ll see on the way at a level that helps her feel involved.
Toddlers need a high level of stimulation in everyday life, but can’t play so easily on a journey, so they become uncomfortable and that leads to irritability.Having stress-free trips is about training your brain as well as your toddler’s. That’s why it helps to look at any proposed journey from her perspective. Will it be comfortable for her? Will she have activities to amuse her? What will happen if she feels sick? Preventing problems is always better than solving them. And making the journey enjoyable will help her to like travel, rather than dread it.
On your next train journey, make sure that you and your toddler sit beside each other and that she has the aisle seat. Walk the length of the carriage every 10 minutes or so and point out things through the window. You’ll find that these routine spells of activity help to make the journey more bearable for both of you.
Some toddlers are afraid of flying, mainly because of engine noise, the sensations from changes in pressure, and the confined space. You can help by giving her plenty of reassurance. Expect to focus your attention on her for the entire journey. Talk to her, walk with her up and down the plane when possible, and play with her. Stay alcohol free so you’re in control and alert.If you’re afraid of flying, do everything you can to hide it. Fear is contagious and if your toddler sees you’re afraid, she’ll become fearful too.
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