We have a 3 year old daughter and a 1 year old son, so meltdowns and temper-tantrums are just part of our lives now. Gone are the sweet days of laying them down on a soft mat while they cooed and batted at rattles, kicking their feet and wearing themselves out. Now it's full-on Survivor at our house and I'm just lucky if I make it to bedtime with all of my faculties intact.
Like many moms, I have a fairly large stack of parenting books on my bedside table. Each night I pick one up and quickly skim through it for tips and tricks to use the next day before I fall asleep. Making it through an entire day while keeping my cool really demands that I bring my A-game to every situation, and that is especially true on family travel days.
After all, parenting your child at home is a lot easier than parenting your child in the air with 50+ other people around, no place to go, no control over schedule, bathroom availability, comfort level of seat, or ability to get up and down from seat at will. I think the flight attendants may frown upon sending your child to the galley to simmer down and think about what they've done.
These factors alone can be enough to prevent many families from even considering flying with young children. It's a lot, right? But we are here to tell you YOU CAN DO IT!
5 parenting strategies to keep you and your kids happy on your next flight:
1. Give your child attention - This is the first step in prevention. I want you to think of your time on the plane as a great opportunity to bond with your child through playing, reading, and general attention-giving. This is the perfect opportunity for quality time because you're both captive audiences, you can't have your phone on and any other outside distractions are eliminated. Just talk, play, ask questions, be silly, read, color, stretch, and give TLC.
2. Release Control - If you’re like me, your house runs on a schedule. Actually, you live and die by the schedule and if the schedule is off, the whole day is off. Sound familiar? Air travel days can be tough because your kids are now on the airline’s schedule and, can you believe it, they typically do not coincide.
In order to have the best family travel experience, you must release control of the little things as well as your attachment to a desired outcome. For example, you may have visions of keeping your child’s schedule exactly as it happens at home. You may envision them eating their lunch then falling right to sleep in their chair, but there’s a real possibility that that may not happen. Instead of stressing out over how this new non-schedule is going to affect your day and your child, just let it go. Release. This is only one day and your child will sleep again. Promise.
Frustration arises when we try to make a moment or situation into something it’s not or can’t be. Release this sense of control and notice how much easier your interactions become and how quickly time passes. Stay calm and connected to the moment, use the other 4 parenting strategies listed here, and all will be well. You've got this.
3. Distract - You know how we talked about attention spans by age a couple of weeks ago? If not, you can check that post out here. In short, children have very short attention spans. The younger they are, the shorter their attentions spans are, BUT this can work to your advantage.
The next time your little one starts to get restless or you sense a meltdown coming on, distract them with a shiny/crinkly/squeaky object or snack. You can also ask them questions about their surroundings, like “Do you see any birds out the window? What do you think the clouds feel like?”. This simple technique works like a charm.
4. Bring Toys - Maybe it’s because I own a children’s travel toy company, but I am flabbergasted by people who board planes with young children and do not bring a single toy for them to play with. Zero. Zilch. Nada. Either you have the most well-behaved 2 year old on the planet and I need to know your secrets, or you ma’am need some help in this area. If this is you, no worries! You are in the right place!
For those of you with little bitty babes (around 1 year or younger), your kids are most likely fascinated with the simplest things such as your water bottle, a plastic airline cup, anything that's been shoved into the seat back pocket, or random items in your carry-on bag. However, those things will lose their appeal after a certain point, so bring a few teething-friendly toys for your little one to play with/chew on and plenty of kid-friendly disinfecting wipes as well for when they inevitably fall on the ground over… and over… and over again.
For older toddlers (2+), make sure you bring plenty of toys that are multi-purpose and bring them out 1 at a time/ as needed, not all at once. You need to stretch those toys out for as long as possible. Check out our store for more great ideas!
5. Give Hugs - Really! Sometimes my 3 year old is so far gone in her tantrum, there's no getting back to calm on her own. She needs a hug and for her mom or dad to just hold her and tell her everything is ok. After the tantrum has subsided, we can have a conversation about what happened and how she can do better next time. But in that moment, just hugging her and making her feel safe and loved is all that matters.
Now we’d love to hear from you! How do you bring your parenting A-game to travel days or new situations in general?
Be sure to check out the rest of our blog, Instagram & Facebook posts for more travel tips to use on your next family trip!