Tips for travelling with an only child
Moving abroad or travelling with kids can be a wonderfully rewarding experience for everyone involved. You all get to experience new cultures, new tastes and new sights, and you’ll adore watching your children grow into strong, happy individuals through their rapidly broadened horizons. Of course, any form of travel with kids comes with its own unique hurdles to overcome.
For parents of an only child, somehow the challenges can seem to be amplified. Where siblings can often release some energy together, an only child will be looking to you, and only you, to reassure, play, entertain and comfort. When you are trying to find your place in a new country, this can be exhausting, making it a fairly full on experience for any family group. However, it also means your relationship with your only child becomes stronger than ever. Your child needs to find their place in a world that’s full of adults, and it’s your job as a parent to help them find their way through this challenge.
Here are some ideas for ways to help them prepare, and for your family unit to cope with moving overseas with a solo child.
Let them express their independence
Only children are typically more precocious than those in larger families, largely because they spend so much of their time with adults. Let them use this maturity to their advantage, by letting them make choices and deal with difficult situations themselves, where appropriate.
Before you go, let them prepare their own belongings for the journey ahead. Give them the bag that they are allowed to take. Let them pick out their clothes, and take responsibility for ticking off a checklist of things they need to bring. If you are going on holiday, explain that the fuller that bag is, the fewer souvenirs they will be able to bring back!
Once you’re away, try to find some age-appropriate independence for them. Maybe they could take their pocket money into a shop while you wait outside. If they’re old enough perhaps they could get some time in the mall while you explore the art gallery next door. Enlist their help to plan public transport and hotels, and watch them as they grow into confident, self-assured people.
Proactively seek out other children
Before you go, make sure they have names and contact details for any close friends. See if you can set up Skype chats with best buddies, or find other ways to connect on a regular basis such as via Minecraft or other online social games.
When you’re away, be aware of the prevalence of adult input in their lives. Look to find other children to play with, maybe at sports camps, play parks or after school clubs. If you don’t intend to put them in school while you’re away, finding other children is crucial to keeping them aware that they are still young.
Teach them the language basics
Children are actually quite awesome at picking up new languages; often far better than us adults. Before you go, arm them with some basic knowledge of the language of the country you’re going to, to enable them to at least say ‘hi’ and ask the local kids if they want to play football.
Try to focus on child friendly language learning. Chances are, he or she is not going to need to know the way to the bank, or to ask for the bill in a restaurant. But they do need to be able to say ‘hello’ and ‘how are you’, and maybe also to explain a bit about themselves.
Give them some space
Only children will have been used to getting a fair bit of ‘me’ time, whether they spent that playing in their room, listening to music or quietly watching a movie in the lounge. Be aware of this, and be sure to give them some ways of escaping from being the centre of attention all the time.
Before you go, invest in an e-reader or tablet and pre load it with books, movies and music so they can indulge themselves from time to time. While you’re away, make sure they have some space in their schedule to get away from the grownups, maybe by booking apartments with their own bedroom or at least a separate living area.
Travelling with an only child can be easier and cheaper than travelling with a larger family, but it is important to find ways to help our solo kids remain kids, even when they spend most of their time with adults. Let us know what challenges you experienced when travelling with an only child, and what you did to overcome them.