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Traveling with Sensitive Children:

Creating a Drama-Free Travel Plan

Africa Studio

Traveling with kids can be a great adventure. Taking a little extra care with your sensitive child(ren) can help your travels be a true vacation.

Sensitive kids have one common trait: they are highly introverted. This means they gain energy from being alone. While they may be social, their outer limit on time with others is likely shorter or requires more "recovery" time spent alone.

Here’s an example of how the parents of a sensitive child may start to connect the pattern their child is sensitive. A family was traveling with their 4 and 6-year-olds in Washington State. This was the first major trip they’d taken with their kids, flying on an airplane, driving via a convertible, hiking part of Mount Rainier—all of these experiences were firsts for them. Quickly into the vacation, the children became agitated and were fighting in a way they never had before. The parents grew weary of the fights and needed a break, choosing to stop at a library where quiet was guaranteed. They sat with their four-year-old on a bench and read books. The older child found a cozy spot to read on their own. An hour later when they left the library, they were a different family—everybody was calm and refreshed. Even in the days which followed, the calm was maintained.

In hindsight, the parents realized their sensitive kids needed quiet downtime that allowed them to process and restore. It’s essential, not optional, for sensitive kids to have time to themselves. Convincing an introvert to keep going won’t work; their only way to rally is to get some time away by themselves. With this in mind, "restoring" can be easy when traveling; it just takes a little planning.

Consider planning your time away with activities that are conducive to the sensitive child while respecting what you’d like from the vacation too. Visiting a museum early while it’s less crowded then heading to the park on your way to sightsee allows free time in-between.

Another family with a sensitive child was headed to a three-week summer camp where the balance of the family would meet them at the end for a vacation. The family lived in Minnesota and the camp was in Massachusetts, meaning the sensitive child had to fly by themselves, meet a group of people they didn’t know and take a shuttle to their destination. Clearly, there were a lot of new situations for this sensitive child to navigate and process. In planning the trip and considering the pick-up day, the parents asked the child if they’d like a day alone to recuperate at the house they’d rented prior to heading to their next destination. The child agreed this would be a good plan, then asked to look at the rest of the itinerary to make similar adjustments with their need of restoration in mind. Their trip was a success; it achieved the balance they desired and resulted in a happy sensitive child and greater family too.

Discussing your plan with a sensitive child over 12 years old is important so they know what to expect, which can also help anxious children as well. Let them know they might sometimes need to be flexible if plans change, and while the parents will honor their need for alone or downtime, it may not look exactly like they planned. This teaches sensitive children how to rise to the occasion when it’s needed.

Selecting lodging where each child has their own bed and the space has several rooms can also help. With the magic of Airbnb, this is not only possible but can be reasonably priced compared to a hotel.

Highly introverted kids also may differ on how they restore. Making a list in collaboration with your sensitive child of ways they feel support restoring can be helpful for some families. Others may know, like the example of going to the library, a natural way to soothe these kids and the parents too. Taking kids into nature where they can sit and just be is another great way. Sitting in a quiet coffee shop in the afternoon where there are couches and the ability to spread out is a great opportunity for many sensitive children and adults, too.

Getting a healthy snack can also help your sensitive child. Their minds process so much information, it’s an opportunity to feed their brain as well as give it a break. Boost them with nutritious brain food for a break in place of highly sugary or caffeinated beverages which can sabotage your effort. Just like bringing sunscreen to the beach, this is the way to protect your child's mental and emotional health. Truly it's worth it so you have fresh and ready travelers. Bon voyage!

Amy Vasterling teaches parents how to understand and raise their sensitive children through trust. She cares deeply about both children and parents, seeing the correlation as the opportunity to plant the seeds to eradicate narcissism in our society. For more information, visit IntuitivePathfinder.com/Parenting.

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