Toddlers and tantrums are two “T” words that are often regarded as synonyms in many parents’ minds. It’s simply that time of life when kids find their words, develop their own personality and try to strong-arm people into seeing things their way. It’s actually a magnificent milestone and one that should be regarded as such and not frowned down upon too much.
We’ve been through it all at this point. With a 13-year-old teenager and a four-year-old preschooler, we know what it’s like as parents to have kids push the boundaries.
Unfortunately, very few kids are the same nor do they get upset over the exact same things. Some children are more time and easily upset by over-stimulation, while others thrive in big groups and function on fewer hours of sleep.
But, if you’re planning your vacation and you’re concerned about managing those meltdowns in public, here are some relatively basic tips:
(1) Keep the beasts fed and rested. It’s no secret that human beings require bood and sleep. In fact, little toddlers are notorious for exhibiting “hangry” emotions. As adults, you might handle long travel days well, and go without food at regularly scheduled times, but toddlers’ body clocks are much more rigid. If you try to skip over a meal because of time change on a plane or a long road trip, you’re setting yourself up for a mood swing. So, keep satisfying. healthy snacks on hand, keep your eyes on the clock and take breaks when you need to.
(2) Know the Tantrum Triggers. As I mentioned, I don’t think toddlers are that similar despite what so many experts say. Even within our own brood, personalities are SO different. Some children are high-strung and others are chill. It’s just a fact of life. Knowing your own child(rens) tantrum triggers is key to your travel success. For example, our four-year-old doesn’t do well in big groups nor does he like a lot of noise. So attempting activities or travel around bedtime, when he’s going to be exposed to a lot of stimulation is setting us up for a meltdown. Our youngest needs snacks…non-stop. So ensuring he’s not going to go hungry (on a long plane ride or layover for example) can help things run smoothly for him. If your toddler needs rest, try to find a way to plan a layover or take a walk during “nap” time.
(3) Take a adult time out. You can only handle so much whining on a travel day. When you factor in unexpected delays, traffic, potty training accidents and so on…you might be setting YOURSELF up for a rough day. Instead, know when to take a personal moment. Ask someone for help (use resources like flight attendants, other parents etc) if you’re traveling solo. Taking care of yourself is #1 (remind yourself of that). When mom/dad is happy, it makes things a lot easier on the kids.
(4) Know when to throw in the towel. We’re all about taking kids everywhere. It’s a great way for them to get used to new experiences. But, if you’re at a restaurant and your kids are climbing up the walls, fussy and asking to leave, there’s no winning in forcing them to stay. If you’re clearly ruining an experience for other families or patrons around you, and your kids aren’t enjoying themselves (and chances are you aren’t either) it might be time to call it a day. There’s only so much ssssssshhhhing and scolding one can do.
(5) Offer love. Travel days are tough. They’re often long and full of change (both factors of which aren’t conducive to ideal toddler behaviour). So, instead of pushing back or trying to control your child, offer love and reassurance that you know things are tough. HEAR them loud and clear and let them know you value their feelings. Take the time to be patient and listen to what’s upsetting them. If they’re having a throw down type tantrum, safely move them to a quiet area. Throwing your hands up or giving into to public humiliation isn’t the solution.
This is honestly one of those topics that we could talk about forever. We’ve been through it all (from ugly grocery store breakdowns to movie theatre melt downs). It’s never easy. And your mood and state of mind can greatly impact how you react. Avoiding major triggers, keeping kids happy, dry, fed and rested, and reinforcing your love and understanding are a few ways to help make travel more fun!