Thinking about planning a family trip but worried about the hassle of bringing the kids? Forget the horror stories of traveling with minors. Here are six reasons why you should say yes to more adventures with your young ones.
1. Travel enhances your parent-child conversations. Children learn best from interaction with their parents and trusted caregivers, so if you want to teach your kids about the wonders of the world, show them the world -- and talk to them about it. (Tip: You may want to "conveniently" forget your gadgets at the hotel.) A conversation starter like, "We're riding a train! Is it going fast or slow?" works better when you're actually on a train gaining speed than if you're watching watching a show or reading a book about the same topic. The many experiences you'll have while traveling will also introduce your child to a wider variety of words and concepts. Think echo, fiesta, underground, or autumn.
2. Travel turns fiction into reality and lets the imagination come alive. Maybe you still remember the first time you saw the Mona Lisa or tried the artisan pizza everyone was raving about. For kids, the magic comes in even simpler forms: the first time they see and touch real snow, or see a moving, roaring tiger, or step into a castle fit for a princess. Things they'd only read about in books or see on a screen are so much more memorable in 3D. You don't need to travel far to find real live versions of the pages and pixels -- even a trip to the local marketplace can hold many wonders for a fertile and curious young mind.
3. Traveling while young teaches kids to be world citizens. One developmental milestone is when kids start recognizing that others may not share their point of view and learn to put themselves in other people's shoes. Encourage empathy and a broader worldview by showing your children that the world is full of people of all colors, with languages, various customs, and daily experiences different from what your family is used to. Traveling also turns kids into better travelers -- willing to try new tastes and experiences, comfortable around people who are different from them, and able to find the fun and beauty in situations even some adults would whine and complain about. Whether your kids remember the trip or not, they will have learned something valuable that will serve them for their future adventures -- with or without you.
4. Traveling with kids lets you see the world through fresh eyes. Maybe you never would have stopped at that fountain before, but this time, you'll spend an hour vicariously experiencing and witnessing the incomprehensible joy of a kid watching the water. Young kids are better travelers than most adults, because they innately get that travel is about experiencing the world anew and not simply about shopping and taking selfies at the pre-marked tourist spots. Ask a child what he remembers or enjoyed most about his day and you'll be surprised by the things he noticed, the things that made him happy, and the things he found beautiful, scary, interesting, or awe-inspiring.
5. Travel will show you a different side of your child. Traveling affects and changes everyone on the journey -- even the smallest of us. Keep your eyes open for magical moments during the trip when your child may surprise you: A normally shy child may connect with a funny-face-making stranger, a timid child may show a flash of daring and bravery, a picky eater may try and love exotic tastes, and an older sibling may suddenly be extra caring and protective of a younger sibling. These are moments rarely captured on camera, but they'll be unforgettable nonetheless. Maybe you'll surprise yourself as well -- who knew you had that patience, resilience, and courage in you?
6. Traveling will strengthen your family bond. We mentioned patience, right? Let's be honest -- traveling with kids is definitely more challenging than traveling by yourself (or with your spouse), but that's because life with kids is a challenge. It's not easy to be unselfish with your time and itinerary, to have less control over an already unfamiliar situation, and to have to worry about someone else's safety and welfare. But step up to the challenge and you'll build trust and respect in your relationship with your kids.
What's more precious to your child than knowing you will keep him safe when the sound of the airplane taking off scares him; that he can tell you when he's tired from walking in the heat and the crowds and you'll listen; or that it wasn't silly at all that he wanted to stop and watch the birds on the sidewalk? What bonds you tighter than having a jetlagged, usually cranky-when-sleepy husband offer to let you doze off while he stays up to soothe and comfort your cranky, jetlagged son?
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Yes, the happy memories and picture-perfect moments will be nice to look back on, but the stories you tell over and over again will be of the times you thought you couldn't go on, but then you did -- and, wow, was it worth it.
This article originally appeared in the April 2015 issue of Smart Parenting magazine. Minor edits have been made by the SmartParenting.com.ph editors.