Travel Successfully with Children During the Holidays

Andrew Scherbarth

Dr. Andrew Scherbarth is a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) and a licensed psychologist in both Maryland and Florida.

By Andrew Scherbarth, Ph.D., BCBA-D, Clinical Child Psychologist

Halloween is over and the holidays are right around the corner. The holidays are a great time of year—extended family, time off from school and excellent food. However, they can also be a stressful time of the year for kids—new or less familiar environments with different expectations, people they don’t see very often, different decorations, long trips in the car or on a plane, etc.

Let your children try new things and have a good time, yet still feel comfortable during holiday trips

  • Keep kids occupied and give them time to stretch during long trips. They will be happier with an iPad or a couple toys to entertain themselves than they would be just staring out of the window. You’ll be happier about it too.
  • Airplane take-off and descent can cause excruciating pain—especially if your child is congested or has a cold at the time. In fact, air pressure change is to blame for many instances of infant crying on planes. To prevent it, have them chew gum, snack or drink during descent and take off. Consider the use of EarPlanes Children’s Ear Plugs to reduce the ear popping that happens on airplanes. EarPlanes come in child size (age 1-10 years) or regular adult size. Follow instructions on the box. If it’s too late and their ears have popped, you can “pop the hearing back in.” Just have the child plug their nose, close their mouth and blow through the nose. They may have to do it a couple times, but it pops things back into place so they can hear again and it stops the pain too.
  • Allow children to enjoy some their preferred activities and give them opportunities to be active during the holiday visit. It may be cold outside, but it’s important for your child to be allowed to be active if you don’t want them to bounce off the walls. They might play with indoor balls or enjoy indoor bounce houses or entertainment areas for kids, malls with playgrounds, etc. None of these require being outside, if you are visiting in colder climates.
  • Keep consistent bedtimes and mealtimes. Although we as adults may want to stay up later and do more things with family around, and our extended families may eat much later or earlier than we do, it’s important to keep consistency to avoid children becoming i

    Children notice when we don’t spend as much time with them during the holidays as we normally do. Make an effort to continue to spend one-on-one time with your children while visiting family and friends during the holidays.

    rritable. It’s still possible to eat later than usual, but at least give a snack during your child’s normal feeding time or consider feeding your child at the normal time, while the adults have a later meal

  • Continue to spend time focusing on your children. Parents sometimes forget just how much attention they usually give to their kids and don’t notice how that changes when they’re together with the extended relatives. While spending time with family we haven’t seen in a while is understandable, kids will definitely notice if they don’t receive the same level of attention they were getting at home. They will tend to use attention-getting behaviors to regain our attention, unless we do some preventative playtime.
  • Stay consistent with rules and treatment protocols that you use at home. You will regret caving in to family pressure to manage behavior issues differently. The effects of caving in for 2-7 days can be felt for weeks afterwards after you return home.

The holidays can be a great time of year, and with a little planning, you and your child can avoid pitfalls and have more fun!

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