In honor of Children’s Day on June 1, this one’s for kid travelers. As I write this, my almost 7 year old twins are finishing their first year in a Chinese primary school. I swell with pride when I think of the amazing progress they’ve made over the year at their Beijing school, and the praise they get from the teachers. But what impresses me the most is that from the time we moved to China when they were five to now, they’ve hardly complained.
I can hardly claim much credit for this and these kids whine plenty about lots of things. But for parents looking for ways to make their kids adaptable while traveling, here are a few things I’ve learned.
1)Lead by example: If you enjoy experiencing new things, your kids will too. If you complain about the smelly toilets or (perceived) rude treatment, they will too. If you treat it as normal and even funny, they will too. You get the picture.
2)Combine fun with education: This is Parenting 101, but applies especially to travel. Explain new things they see and look them up together. Throw in travel games, language apps, food experiments.
3)Find the positive: Everywhere you go, even if it’s just to grandma’s house in the next state, will have differences from home. Focus on those that are positive. In China we have cheap restaurants and taxis, in the US free public libraries and playplaces.
4)Leave your prejudices at home: Differences are what’s fun about travel but show kids people are essentially the same everywhere. Most kids don’t need to be taught this and language and cultural differences rarely stop kids from being friends.
5)Keep records. Ok, so this is learned more from my own experience as a child than practice as a parent. But talking about what they see then scribbling it down in words or pictures can make it more memorable.