Vacationing With Children

adoption travelWith summer in full force many of our adoptive families will venture out on the all American family vacation with children in tow. Having just returned myself from just such a getaway, I observed many families attempting to enjoy themselves with faces that revealed stress and frustration rather than relaxation.

While I did enjoy myself, I will reveal to you that my children are now college age and the years of bringing young children on vacation are now behind me. For those of you courageous enough to attempt a vacation with your little ones I am offering you the following to help you with your trip. I will disclose to you that I made some of these same mistakes as a vacationing parent and it was only through time and experience that I came to know what it took to have a memorable vacation with my own kids.

Rule number 1. Do not expect your children to behave as they do at home, especially adopted children on their very first trip. Remembering the following will help you keep your emotions and expectations in check. In the summer months it is typically hot outside and doing outdoor activities in the heat will leave you both feeling exhausted. Your children are being dragged around from one activity or event to another, they are tired, they are out of their element, they are out of their routine, they are not sleeping in their own beds, they are not eating at their dining room tables, they are not napping or going to bed at their normal times. Do not expect the same behaviors you get at home when you are taking every nuance of life they are familiar with away. This is a new experience for them – flexibility is the key! Even while changing the dynamic, try to maintain as consitent a routine as possible for children, especially those who may be in their first year or two with the family. The bed may be different, but the bed time routine does not need to be. Bring along a favorite pillow, blanket, and stuffed animal. It is tempting to be lax on the rules, but the more constent you are, the easier the changes wil be for everyone.

Rule number 2: When your child is tired, take them back to your hotel, camper, tent etc. and let them sleep. When your child is hungry, make sure you have something healthy for him or her to eat. A tired or hungry child will quickly become an unhappy child. Try to stick to the child’s normal sleep and eating schedule as much as possible. Maintain healthy diets to avoid tummy aches & sugar highs – vacationing is not a free pass to allow the kiddos to eat and overeat foods high in sugar and fat content.

Other tips to remember to help make your vacation enjoyable rather than a week you are trying to endure (some of these seem quite obvious but seemed ignored by some parents):

  • Sunscreen & insect repellent– apply and reapply often.
  • Lots of water – keep your children hydrated! Soft drinks and sugar filled drinks do not keep your child hydrated on hot days and will have the opposite effect.
  • Take lots of breaks and time to rest – especially on hot days find a shaded spot to take a time out, don’t keep pushing onward – especially children who are in their first year or two with your family may become overstimulated easily.
  • Participate in child friendly activities – this will help keep your child occupied instead of bored.
  • If possible bring another adult – grandma or grandpa can help babysit when you need some time to yourselves.
  • Remember it is ok to do nothing – don’t try to cram every minute of your day with an activity.

A vacation with your family, especially when your children are small, should be a wonderful memory. However, as many of us can attest, if it is not well planned and well thought out, it will leave you wishing you were back at work or at home and dreading even the thought of another vacation.

Photo Credit: Fadzly Muban

For more information about MLJ Adoptions’ international adoption programs, please click here.

Sonja Brown works as the International Program Director for MLJ Adoptionsā€™ programs in Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti and Samoa. Sonja is also proud to work directly with our Individualized Country Program families who are adopting from countries where no adoption service providers currently operate.