How to Plan Family Vacations with Anxious Children

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Family vacations can be exciting adventures, although they are not always perceived that way in the minds of anxious children. Children with anxiety are often fearful of change, but that doesn’t mean a change of scenery is guaranteed to fail. A number of tips can help you and your anxious children have a successful family vacation.

Plan Ahead

Long lines, crowded amusement parks and over-stimulation of any sort can sometimes push even the most serene adults into meltdowns. Think of the effects various situations may have on anxious children. Keep triggers to a minimum by choosing busier destinations during off-peak hours. Also keep an eye out for the nearest exits as well as quiet nooks or areas where you can go to help your anxious child calm down.

Prepare Your Anxious Child

Give your anxious children a sneak peek of the upcoming trip by outlining what they can expect. This can include:

  • What will be different from or the same as home
  • What new experiences or challenges they’ll encounter
  • What new people they’ll be meeting
  • What to do if they need help during the trip

Helping your anxious child write a story about the upcoming trip can also help your child prepare. Have your child be the main character, then guide your child through the vacation, pointing out different interactions and situations he or she are likely to face.

Retain Familiarity

Sticking to the same schedules whenever possible can help your anxious child stay on an even keel. That means retaining the same meal times, bedtimes, story times before bed and any other activity that helps your child feel secure. Bring along a favorite toy, blanket, book, outfit or game to further reinforce familiarity.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help

If your anxious child needs special accommodations to help make travel go more smoothly, don’t be hesitant to ask for them. This can apply any time during the trip, from going through airport security and boarding to plane to specific seating in restaurants and even passes for lines in amusement parks. Some amenities may require documentation, while others may be offered in response to your simple request.

Under-Schedule Activities

Instead of trying to hit three tourist spots before lunch, your entire family may be better off attempting to visit one for the entire day. Having a vacation schedule with a bit of breathing room lets you enjoy spur-of-the-moment opportunities that may pop up without feeling you must rush to the next scheduled activity. It also allows for much-needed downtime where everyone can just kick back and relax.

Redefine Your Idea of Success

A perfect family vacation is rarely a reality, but just because a vacation isn’t perfect doesn’t mean it wasn’t successful. Focus on the high points and the lows to use for future reference when planning your next getaway. And even if all didn’t go perfectly, a vacation that provided time for learning, bonding and laughing together as a family can be classified as a success in anyone’s book.

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Photo Credit: MudflapDC Flickr via Compfight cc

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