Traveling with young children is an amazing opportunity to create so many memories with your children. The most memorable memories for you may be when your child is throwing himself/herself down on the floor in the airport or screaming bloody murder of the plane! Unfortunately, these things do happen!
Toddlers are going through some major developmental changes, which can contribute, to their increased tantrums. At this stage of development, our little ones have discovered that they can do things themselves. They have gone from having things done for them, to trying to figure out how to do things themselves. During this learning period, children will often throw a number of tantrums out of frustration, exhaustion, hunger, worrying about what is happening next, etc.
So how can you deal with these behaviors while you are traveling?
There are basically two types of strategies that you can use. These strategies can be broken down into 2 different types of reactions. The reactions are as follows:
1. Proactive Reactions:
A proactive reaction is when you consciously choose to do things that may help with your child’s feelings that can stop your child’s need to tantrum to express his/her feelings.
Some examples of Proactive Reactions are:
- Having snacks ready at any given moment. “Hangry” is a real thing.
- Giving your child reminders of what is happening next. Warnings of when they will have to transfer on to the plane. A warning before preparing for take-off and landing so the seat is in the right position.
- Play for a minimum of 10 minutes with your child. This is child-directed play! This can happen on the plane, in the airport, on the bus, in a vehicle, and so on. The child led play adds to your child’s feeling of connection with you. This simple act has a powerful impact on your child’s day.
- Bringing a transitional object with them like a blanket or stuffy that provides comfort when you can’t.
- Keeping to a routine that is similar to home when possible. This simply means having meals, snacks, and naps in the same order that they occur at home. I fully expect that these meals, snacks, and naps may be happening on the fly!
2. Reactive Reactions:
A reactive reaction is what you do after the tantrum has occurred or while it is in progress.
Some examples of Reactive Reactions are:
- Distraction is a common tactic used. There is a time and a place to use this technique. In the middle of a crowded area or in an unsafe place like the water or in the street. With the distraction, you may find that your child has a few more tantrums before he/ she seems ready to move on. I used to carry a few toys in my purse or backpack that I could pull out and use in these moments. If you are willing a movie or tv show can be a great distraction on the plane.
- Giving your child a few minutes on his/her own to calm down and process the moment. I personally find that timeouts are not effective when we are in a strange place. An alternative is to use time in. Time in is which is when you go with your child when he/she is taking a break away from the activity where the tantrum occurred.
- Letting the tantrum happen and then offering comfort when it is done. This can be referred to as offering connection. Children will often tantrum when they feel that their connection with a loved one has been affected.
As with all things related to children, you will find that some strategies work really well for one child and not well for another child. With time and patience, you will discover what works best for your child. I wish you all the best traveling with your child!