Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Top 5 Ways to Help Children With Jet Lag

Do you remember my post about packing patience in your suitcase? While that post specifically referred to "packing" patience during holiday travel, it's relevant for any travel, really. Of course you don't literally pack patience like you do clothes, but being conscious of your need to be patient is important.

If you'll be traveling across time zones with children, be conscious of the fact that it may be hard on you, but even harder on them. Especially if they're young children who don't understand why they feel lousy or can't sleep or want to sleep all the time. My children are a bit older now, so they understand why they feel terrible even if they melt down at some point.

Here are a few tips that might help you navigate jet lag:

  1. Make sure you and your children are hydrated. I find this one challenging. My kids need constant reminders to drink water and even then sometimes say they don't want any. I have to insist they drink. It gets tiring to be the enforcer but sometimes moms and dads really do know best. When on a plane, I also allow my kids to have ginger ale when that's not usually part of their diet. Avoid caffeinated drinks, though.
  2. Constantly remind yourself that if you're tired and cranky, they are too. Remind yourself to be patient. Remind yourself to be loving and gentle when they fall apart. (This one may be the hardest of all... I know my patience is thin when I'm tired). But don't beat yourself up if you lose it at some point. Apologize and tell them you're tired, too, and try to be more patient the next time. You're only human.
  3. This one happens before you depart... Allow for recovery time in your schedule. Don't schedule anything too soon after arrival. I re-learned this one the hard way. When we went to India for a wedding, we thought we had planned our arrival far enough in advance of the ceremony but we were wrecked by the big time change. Planning to arrive a few days earlier and leave sooner after the wedding would have been smarter. For our recent trip to California, we had a Sunday wedding to attend so we left on Thursday morning. With only a three hour time change, this was enough time for our kids to adjust and have a great time at the wedding.
  4. Try to get on local time as soon as possible but realize your kids may be tired or hungry at random times. Be ready to stop for a snack or return to your hotel/home base for a nap at any time. Do not try to push through. It's not fair to them or you. Who cares if you see the sights but everyone is miserable. You can go sightseeing another day.
  5. Build in plenty of physical activity and down time. Allow for quiet time with small toys, books, or games. Also allow unstructured time to run around and play outside. After hours on a plane, physical activity is a must. And children need to get outside to be healthy. Getting outside is possible in nearly any location- even in the city. Ask your hotel for a recommendation or use your smart phone to look one up. When we arrived in San Francisco, we had some food and went straight to the nearest park. I firmly believe that outside time helped us orient to our new location and adjust more quickly. For our first three days, we had a short list of things we might do, but only decided what to do based on how all of us were feeling each day. Since the weather was beautiful, those days were spent mostly outside.

Those are my top tips. What other tips do you have for navigating jet lag and time changes?

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