Holiday travel can often be a total disaster. Flight delays, horrendous traffic, and nasty wintertime flu can leave you feeling worse than Mr. Scrooge. Add traveling with kids into the mix and your patience, poise, and rule to “never yell in public” is sure to be tested. However, holiday travel doesn’t have to involve bah humbugs and emotional meltdowns. With a little extra planning and a few quick mental tricks, your holiday travel can be easy-peasy. Check out these simple tips for navigating holiday travel successfully:
1. PREPARE FOR THE WORST
Expect a few glitches in your travel plans. That way when things don’t go as scheduled, you’re mentally prepared and ready to be flexible. Having a plan B is always a good idea. For example, if you’re flying, make sure you have rental car information at your fingertips in case your flight is canceled. It’s harder to be effective when you’re stressed, but if you plan ahead for upset, you can pull out your plan B with grace and save the day.
2. KEEP YOUR KIDS INFORMED
Children like routines. They benefit greatly from consistency and structure. Holiday travel is anything but predictable and consistent. Help your kids know what to expect during holiday travel by talking about it in detail ahead of time. Orient your children to travel by reviewing the rules for at the airport or in the car. Print a schedule with bright colors and pictures so that everyone in the family is on the same page. Discuss what it means to be flexible and how your family can cope effectively if things don’t go as planned (e.g. how to stay calm, stick together, and avoid conflict).
3. INVOLVE YOUR CHILD IN PACKING AND PLANNING
Kids are more likely to be invested in activities and go with the flow if they’ve had some involvement in planning. Have your child pack his or her own backpack to carry on the plane or to have in the backseat of the car. Make sure to include extra snacks, appropriate toys and games, and chargers for electronics. If you anticipate that allowing your child to pack alone will result in a backpack filled with tiny Legos and multi-part action figures, set out appropriate toy and snack choices ahead of time and ask your kiddo to choose which ones he or she would like to take.
4. FOCUS ON THE INTENT
When (not if!) things go wrong, remind yourself of the true reason for holiday travel. Chances are, it’s to celebrate the holidays with people you love. Remember to focus on what you can control (your attitude, your reaction to stress, parenting your children effectively), and let go of what you cannot control (The traffic will likely move at the same slow pace, regardless of whether you yell and swear, or whether you calmly accept you’ll be late). Put the situation into perspective: if no one in your family is dying or seriously injured, things will be ok.
5. TAKE A DEEP BREATH
No wait- take five deep breaths. I know this sounds like a cliché, but it does work. If you can take a few deep breaths and calm your body down, your mind will be more likely to calm down too. I’m not saying you’ll feel one hundred percent better, but at least you won’t make the situation worse. Plus, you’ll buy yourself some time to think about what action you want to take and avoid words or behavior you’ll regret.
Got a stress-less holiday travel tip? Share it with Harmony At Home!
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
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