We have been overseas for almost one year now. We have flown across two oceans, travelled in two continents and had various homes during this time. What I have learnt very quickly is that children are adaptable, accepting and able to cope and deal with change. Some changes they will cope with better than others. We have good days and bad days, much like life at home. We cannot control everything in our sons’ environment nor would we wish too, for us, that isn’t what life is about… We do however, make sure that both our sons safety, health and well-being are our top priority, along with ours, no matter where we are.
Familiar routines and consistency can exist anywhere, even when in a different country and even when on the move (e.g. we eat, sleep, read bedtime stories, brush teeth before bed, have morning cuddles, etc) and a “home” can be created and exist in different forms – whether it be a tent, car, boat etc. Most importantly as a family we are the stable unit in both our sons’ lives, and we would have to agree wholeheartedly, with whoever said, “home is where the heart is’.
Before leaving Australia, I thought it was imperative that we travel in a mobile home e.g. thinking motor home. I felt that we needed to have a mini home away from home, not necessarily because we needed all the conveniences but because I thought my children wouldn’t cope otherwise and I thought it was the only way we could really travel as a family of four.
What I discovered once we were on the road in South America was that a tent can suffice as a home, and my kids loved the car we travelled in just as much as the tent. While we predominately camped in the tent we did use other accommodation when in cities/towns, when it rained and when we just wanted a little piece of luxury – like a good hot bath…. My kids coped well with moving into different accommodation, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend staying in hotels/accommodation if moving every day – that becomes tiresome for everyone…!!
While my 14 month old son sometimes got overexcited when in a new bed and by the new surroundings, my 3.5 year old coped surprisingly well. He had gone from sleeping in our room in Australia to being quite happy sleeping in all sorts of beds – bunk beds, sofa beds, a mattress on the floor bed etc… This was the biggest adjustment and yet one which he coped the best with, and that surprised us the most.. We were impressed with his ability to cope with this change, and his level of comfort and readiness for his own space wherever that might be.
When we are about to undertake a new change we do our best to prepare our kids, whether its catching a plane somewhere, leaving a city, buying/selling our car that has been our home for the past 4 months etc. Kids are pretty good at experiencing their emotion in the present time and then having experienced it they are also better at letting go and accepting the “new” reality more easily than adults sometimes. By the time we had spoken to our kids about selling our car, they were already excited about the plane trip we were about to undertake and arriving in London. Often its perspective and how things are presented that helps the most. It doesn’t have to be frightening if you don’t make it so.
How will travel change your child’s behaviour?
Has travel dramatically altered our sons behaviour? While we travel, one of my son’s has grown from a crawling 12 month old to a full blown toddler. My eldest son has grown from a 3 to a 4 year old. These changes in themselves bring their own sets of behaviours and personality developments. Sometimes it can be hard to separate which is what – would my son be having this tantrum/meltdown if we were at home? Who knows. If your child had a complete personality change while overseas than yes, it would probably be a worry/indicator…
Yes our eldest son, has moments where he gets angry, sad, frustrated etc., but nothing more than what we think he would experience at home or what we know his temperament to be… All children are different, and different kids will react/respond/behave in different ways to new situations.
Definitely things like jet-lag and tiredness, or a new change can mean he is more susceptible to grumpiness but this usually takes about a week or two of adjustment with parental understanding and sensitivity ( if you can manage it, in your jet-lag state too).
Yes, there will be times when your children will tell you – they miss home, family members/friends, that they don’t like something or somewhere they’ve been. And that’s okay. It doesn’t happen often and when it does we tell him we miss our friends too, that they will be there when we get home, and we make opportunities to write/ Skype/ etc. Sometimes what they miss is not even about home any more, but part of what they have experienced during their travels (my son really took a liking to London).
Sometimes just as you may be feeling that all this travel is way too hard, your son comes up with gold – he talks about the new friend he met, he tells you “I want to go to German so I can speak German” (after meeting German travellers), he play acts with his toys using Spanish words, he makes volcanoes and mountains out of sand, castles out of rocks, he tells someone who asks him what he thinks of camping/country/ city he is in, and as you wait with abated breath, he smiles and his eyes light up and he tells them, he loves it.
I remember being in a Chile National park and turning to my son and saying this is why I love to travel, to come and see this, pointing to the awesome view of a natural wonder (the siete tazas). My son got excited saying “I want to go to all the lived places in the world”
Recently, he started asking us to go to other places – “can we go to Africa/Asia”…or he has told us that he wants to be an explorer when he grows up. This is when you realise that this journey may not end any time soon and suddenly your not sure whose driving this adventure any more………!!!