Barbara, We have Traveler Toddler woes!
We recently went away for the weekend with our 2-year-old to visit family. We stayed in a hotel and brought a crib with us, using the same mattress from home. He was fine all day, although refused to nap as we were in the car for a large part of the day and, as a result, was exhausted by bedtime. We did our usual bedtime routine of bath and books but when we put him in the crib, he cried hysterically for two hours. He stood up, refused to lay down, and was practically hyperventilating begging me to take him out. We tried various things and nothing worked. Finally my husband lay him down and it took, he fell asleep. This was just for one night as we came home the next day.
We are nervous as we are about to go away for a week for vacation, and he already told us he didn't like the "other crib." I don't know the difference - his usual mattress is used so it's the same size. I know it's not home, but how can we get him to be ok with travel? We fear we can never leave our house again and now are nervous to go on our vacation! Any strategies? Thanks!
From: Linda, Needham
Here's the problem with vacations with children: As adults, you look forward to and need a change in routine. Children do not do well with change in routine. In fact, routine is what keeps them feeling safe and secure. Sure, kids are adaptable and resilient and many kids can take change in stride. But the more the changes, the more problematic it can be for even the most resilient child. This requires advance planning, especially if you know you have a kid who is not particularly adaptable.
You're on the right track to bring whatever equipment you can from home. But everything that's different will likely register with a typical kid, from the smell in the room (that you might not even notice) to the sounds from outside. The more you are able to keep to bedtime routines, the better. But it's not just bedtime routine that trips you up, it's also the daily routine: The farther they get from their daily routines, the more likely kids are to fall apart. A good rule of thumb is to cater the day's activities and schedule around your child -- especially nap time -- rather than expect him to change to meet your needs.
That doesn't mean you can't do anything extraordinary, just be sensible about it. Don't expect a toddler to hold up for endless hours in a museum. In general, the more you plan activities and schedules around your child, the happier you all will be.
Most of this is common sense: For instance, if you're going on a road trip and your toddler typically falls asleep in the car, can you do your driving at night? Because it makes sense that if he sleeps more hours than usual during the day, he'll be less able to sleep at night. If you are driving during the day, even for just a few hours, plan roadside stops for playtime at a rest area where he can do something physical to get rid of pent-up energy.
The more you anticipate that change is upsetting to young children (well, not just young children), the more relaxed you are likely to be. It's still worth going!
By the way, the hardest transition for kids is not being on vacation, it's being back home again! Many parents who stay in a hotel will have young children sleep in a king size bed with them if they can't sleep, something they would never do at home. But, hey, it's vacation, right? That's fine, as long as you recognize the consequences: Your child will want to -- expect to -- be able to sleep in your bed at home, too.
What's also hard for kids once back home is that they have gotten used to being with you 24/7. Once home, a toddler doesn't understand why you are suddenly not as available as you were. Explain it to him: "Boy, it's hard to get back to normal after vacation, isn't it? It was so nice to have all that time together!"
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