Clinical Psychologist Photini Panayiotou, Ph.D
The summer holiday season is upon us, and for many of us ‘going on holidays’ means travelling abroad. This time of year, many parents face the dilemma of whether they should take their children with them on their travels. Some think that it will make the kid uncomfortable or disrupt their schedule, while others believe that taking young children on holidays is futile, since they will not remember their time abroad. While traveling with young children presents its own set of challenges, the rewards and benefits of family travel can often outweigh any inconvenience that may come along the way.
To begin with, travelling with young children can enhance their developmental milestones. Travelling exposes children to new sights, tastes, smells, and sounds that they may not otherwise encounter. Tasting the local cuisine, riding a camel, learning how to balance on snow, hiking in a forest trail, fishing off the dock and camping out in the open are all new experiences that can enrich a child’s repertoire. Children are encouraged to try new things, which can help them become more open to new experiences, and more inclined to accept new challenges. In addition, travelling to a foreign country introduces the children to people of different cultures, religions and backgrounds. By interacting with the locals children learn to respect the individuality and uniqueness of each person and appreciate the cultural diversity, which may help reshape their view of the world.
Moreover, even though traveling with children will almost inevitably take them out of their schedule and comfort zone, it can also can help them become more flexible and adaptable. Whilst on holidays abroad, children may have to change their sleep or meal times, accept that the host country may not have the food/drinks they prefer, endure unpredicted flight delays, use traditional modes of transportation etc. Taking kinds out of their structure and routine can help develop them into children who can learn to problem solve on the spot, adapt to new and challenging situations, and are aware and appreciative of the world around them. Been exposed to a variety of new adventures and different situations may allow them to be more adaptable to changing situations and more flexible in their habits.
Travelling can also make a child more curious and inquisitive about the world, and instill in them a love for exploration. Whether as an adventurer, navigator, interpreter or taste-tester, travelling helps to spark a child’s imagination and inspires them to engage in a multitude of different roles, explore the world around them, and be more interested and inquisitive about different geographies, topographies, cuisines, cultures, traditions, customs etc.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, travelling with your kids facilitates and strengthens family bonding. As travelling often forces us out of our comfort zones and daily habits, family members need to rely on each other for support, assistance and companionship. Parents and children can spend some quality time together, away from screens, and get to interact with each other in different contexts. From swimming in the ocean to climbing a hill or building sand castles, shared experiences help build positive family memories and associations that will last forever. Happy travels!