Travel anxiety in kids can be a bigger issue than we might think it would be.
We might automatically think that holidays and trips are simply a wonderful thing for kids and that they will be ecstatic any time we take them anywhere. However, we also need to remember that travelling can be a big deal for kids and be something quite outside their comfort zone.
Noticing travel anxiety in kids in our own family doesn’t mean that we will never be able to go on trips and holidays again, of course not. There are lots of ways in which we can help our children through these difficult issues without giving up hope of taking them on holiday ever again. Travel anxiety is something that a lot of people deal with and that means that there are a lot of resources out there for help and support.
In this blog, we want to talk about some easy and simple ways that you can both spot and deal with travel anxiety in kids.
We hope it helps even a little bit and if it does, please leave a comment below and share this blog with your friends via Facebook. The more moms we can get information to, the better!
Thank you and happy reading.
Pay attention to your child’s behaviour while travelling
Before we can try to support and deal with travel anxiety in kids, we need to be able to spot whether it is happening to our child or not. Very often mental health problems can fly under the radar with children as they don’t have the lingo or terminology to tell us how they are feeling and what symptoms they are experiencing.
It can be much easier to find out whether your child is having an issue with their mental health or not by observing their behaviour, specifically so in relation to certain environments.
When it comes to travel anxiety in kids, some things you should look out for include:
- Upset tummies
- Not sleeping or napping
- Asking lots of questions
- Putting their hands over their ears or closing their eyes
- Shaking or trembling
- Saying they feel “sick”
- Saying that they don’t want to go
All of these things could suggest that your child is feeling overwhelmed during travel or in the lead-up. A couple of these symptoms bunched together would imply that your child is dealing with some travel anxiety and this is something you should be taking note of.
Once we spot the travel anxiety in kids, we need to think about how we are going to deal with it.
Address and name the issue
The first thing that is important to do when it comes to supporting travel anxiety in kids is addressing the issue head-on and naming it.
Your child might be experiencing travel anxiety but they most likely have no idea what this actually means. They might worry that they are actually in danger or that they are really unwell. The symptoms might mean nothing to them at all but they simply feel uncomfortable and distressing.
We can begin to help our children through these symptoms by acknowledging that travelling can be scary and that if they are feeling nervous they can talk to you about it. We can also help them by talking openly about the things that are going on and helping our children to understand them. For example, children might be feeling nervous about the noises they hear on a train or aeroplane, and they might be scared of the physical feeling of turbulence. One of the best things that we can do is talk to them about these sensations and what they mean. If they understand what is happening, they might be less scared of the things they are hearing and feeling.
Work with your child on coping strategies
To help minimise travel anxiety in kids, we will need to work with them on coping strategies that they can use when they are feeling scared or overwhelmed. Having our own toolkit of these strategies will help us deal with difficult situations as and when they arise.
Whatever works for your child will be specific to them and it is always good to try multiple things out before you land on a plan that consistently works. However, some universally helpful techniques will include:
- Measured breathing techniques
- Child-friendly meditation
- Distraction techniques including colouring books, games, and toys
- Noise-cancelling headphones
- Talking about things with you or another safe adult
- Graded exposure (building up tolerance to a scary activity by doing little bits at a time)
There are lots of ways that travelling can gradually become less scary for children over time, we just need to be consistent in allowing them to talk about it and helping them with coping strategies so that they can manage their anxiety in the moment.
It is also important to remember that we need to be as calm as possible when dealing with travel anxiety in kids. If we expect them to stay calm but we aren’t calm ourselves, this won’t translate very well. By centring and calming ourselves, we are much more likely to be able to help our children do the same.
Get professional help if you need
Finally, if you are finding that your child’s anxiety isn’t decreasing or isn’t decreasing enough after talking about it and using some coping strategies, you might want to consider getting some professional help.
There are lots of counsellors that are specifically trained to deal with issues such as travel anxiety in kids and they can help your children to overcome their fears. They have skills and experience that we don’t, and we should never feel bad or guilty for needing some extra support. Getting support at an early age can actually be an excellent thing for your child, it means that they can deal with this issue early on and lead the rest of their life without the problem.
There is no shame in having or dealing with issues such as travel anxiety in kids and so there is no shame in getting support with them either.
We are all human and we all need a little extra help some time. That’s ok.