Photo credit: Tanya Little
Most parents of toddlers realize the idea of “The Terrible Twos” is a myth most likely created to give exhausted moms and dads hope that the wild mood swings and emotional volatility will magically disappear once their children turn three.
What parents of three and four-year-olds know is that this is unfortunately not always true: sometimes all young children are capable of having a meltdown — especially during the uncertain, hectic and sometimes tedious experience of family travel.
Below are 5 top tips for tantrum-free travel with toddlers:
1. Mental Prep Makes Kids Mellow —
Establishing a routine is soothing for children, and one of the most upsetting things for them is straying from the schedule to which they’ve grown accustomed.
To keep the emotional turbulence out of your trip, prepare kids for change by talking about what to expect from the journey. Explaining the details ahead of time can prevent a meltdown caused by uncertainty and confusion.
Books and movies that discuss forms of travel can also be helpful for quelling fear of the unknown by showing kids what lies ahead.
2. The Early Bird Catches the Calm—
When flying with young children, it’s especially important to arrive early to the airport. If you’re anxious, your kids will feed off of your nervous energy, until your group has become a big ball of familial stress.
Print boarding passes before you get to the airport if possible, and get through security and settled into your waiting gate area with plenty of time. This will keep the entire family calm and cheerful, and allow kids a chance to exercise by exploring the airport before having to sit still for hours.
3. Entertainment is Everything—
Toddlers are not tiny adults, and lack the emotional maturity to be able to sit still for long periods of time without entertainment. Kids acting out because they’re bored aren’t being “bad,” they’re simply being kids.
By properly preparing to keep children engaged, outbursts over being confined can be completely negated. Activities without small pieces to fall on dirty floors, books, magazines, handheld videogames, portable DVD players and the novelty of your usually-off-limits cell phone can all be great ways to keep kids busy.
Remember to bring extra batteries and headphones, and charge all technology ahead of time. Non-sugary snacks like pretzels, popcorn and crackers can also entertain while keeping blood sugar levels even — and don’t forget to bring plenty of wet wipes.
4. It’s Potty Time—
Even adults can have trouble holding it during “please stay seated” moments of air travel, or stretches of land travel without restrooms, so recently potty-trained little ones can be very impacted by this loss of freedom.
Anytime the seatbelt sign on a plane turns off is a good time to take a toddler to use the restroom. Even if they don’t need to go, just getting up to walk the aisles can be a great way to get exercise.
If traveling by car, take advantage of rest stops to allow kids to use the bathroom and run around in safe areas, and always bring extra clothes in case of spills or accidents.
5. Positive Presentation—
A friendly attitude will get you everywhere when traveling with toddlers. You may be pleasantly surprised by how many parents and grandparents of other children will want to help make your trip stress-free, and may assist in surprising ways if you seem approachable.
Dress yourself and children in clean, nice clothing, and even if your child is having a poor behavioral moment, try to stay chipper. It’s hard when you’re feeling embarrassed and self-conscious, but if you become grumpy yourself, it will only make things worse.
Remember that if your child is throwing a fit, it’s not a reflection of your parenting skills; it’s simply a child having an age-appropriate moment. Anyone with children understands this, and those who don’t will get it someday if they decide to have kids. Take deep breaths and stay calm, even if your toddler is upset.
Common tantrum triggers like being placed into unknown surroundings, and situations that involve long periods of restraint are necessary parts of traveling long distances with kids, making it extremely important to be prepared. With the tantrum-averting tips above in your parenting arsenal, you can make any trip stress-free for your toddlers, yourselves and the other travelers around you.