Tuesday, October 20, 2009

What I've learned while traveling with kids

A friend once shared with me that she felt like she learned so much about herself and the world while traveling alone. My idea of her travels seemed so romantic, ideal and fun that I truly envied her lifestyle but when she shared the lessons learned I couldn't help but see her travels were not so different from mine. Like mine, her travel is an opportunity to learn about the world, it's cultures, and peoples while learning about yourself. My travel's now involve at least our daughter and sometimes other kids so it is also an opportunity to teach as much as we learn along the way. Additionally, I've realized that there are great lessons to bring back and apply to our everyday lives.

Here's what I've learned while traveling with kids:

Everything can be fun if you choose to make it so.
On a recent trip with my 15 month old daughter and my two nephews I realized that even a long car ride or seemingly endless day can be made better. In this case it was with a little word game and a lot of imagination. Max had all of us cracking up with laughter when he decided to narrate our drive and tweak it with a little word game. Now if an 8 year old can find the fun in being board I'm sure we can find the fun in our daily activities.

Perspective is AMAZING.
From a child's perspective things are bigger, better, and more exciting. They are not usually jaded and the most mundane seeming items to us might be a treasure to them. But it is just a matter of perspective. You can choose to change your perspective and ordinary things might seem just as extraordinary.

Flexibility is key.
Kids are so much better at adapting to changes in routine. They may miss naps or the regular bedtime routine but when they finally fall asleep... in the car, stroller, your lap, etc... they're worn out and HAPPY. They wake up the next morning ready to play again without complaints of how their usual routine was missed. If we're flexible most curves life throws us can be learning opportunities or at least opportunities for fun.

You can do that thing you'd thought you'd never try.
At home kids may hate lettuce or strawberry milkshakes but when they're "out", be it a vacation or a trip to grandma's, they surprise us by trying things you didn't think they would. Adopt that courage and curiosity and challenge yourself to do things that may be different enough to scare you. Parasail, horseback ride, ski/snowboard, eat foods you're not sure about, take the subway or bus, go on a long bike ride or a blind date just try and don't wait to be on vacation to do it.

Taking a camera everywhere is a great idea.
Sometimes the best picture moments are unexpected but when you see an opportunity for capturing a shot it's good to be prepared. Whether it's a silhouette of the kids at the park or a posed shot of siblings, cousins, friends, having ice cream or enjoying a meal it's worth the little extra weight in your purse to be able to look back at these moments. Digital cameras or even phone cameras are also a great tool.

• Photograph your children before splitting up at a venue or everyday while traveling. If they get lost, you'll have an instant visual of exactly what they were wearing to show local law enforcement.

• Snap a shot of the row marker you parked at in the amusement park, stadium, mall, etc.

• If you can't buy a map you can always snap a shot of it. Good for subway maps, street maps, stadium/arena maps, etc.

• Document business. Take a picture of a rental car from all sides before you drive away, or snap shots of broken or missing items in your hotel room. Families with kids are always quickly blamed for damage. You can also photograph your luggage to help describe it in case it is missing.

• Use it to document info from flyers. Urban centers are overflowing with flyers promoting local events. Take a picture of the flyer to remember the date, time, and location.Share your insights. Let us know what you've learned while traveling with kids.

Share your insights. Let us know what you've learned while traveling with kids.


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Traveling with Kids during Flu Season

Flu season is already upon us and let's face it, most parents are not just worried, we're terrified. Although logically we know vaccinations and adequate precautions are the best we can do to prevent the flu we still fear for our children's health especially if they are little. So what about travel? With so much attention focused on the H1N1 virus this season many of us may fear going outside our door and would much less consider traveling to another country but with proper precautions travel can be no more dangerous than every day activities at home.

The CDC and WHO are not recommending restricted travel for healthy people because the virus has already spread worldwide. High-risk travelers should consult a doctor prior to travel to areas reporting H1N1 flu. These include:

  • Kids younger than 5
  • People 65 and older
  • Pregnant women
  • People of all ages with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease.
  • Kids and teens younger than 18 who are on long-term aspirin therapy and who might be at risk of Reye's syndrome after influenza virus infection.
  • Adults and children with weak immune systems, including immune system suppression caused by medicines or by HIV.

Before travel make sure to prepare. Get vaccinated and get your kids vaccinated for both seasonal as well as H1N1 flu. Children under age 9 who are receiving the vaccine for the first time should receive two doses spread 4 weeks apart so make sure to start your preparations at least 8 to 5 weeks prior to travel. Try to maintain a healthy immune system by eating (and feeding your kids) good foods that include a variety of fruits, veggies, whole grains, dairy and other nutrient rich food. Make sleep for you and your kids a priority. Well-rested kids are less likely to get sick. Of course consult travel advisors of the country you'll be traveling to and subscribe to email alerts from them as well as the CDC & WHO.

If you're sick, stay home. Some airlines are waiving change fees if you can provide documentation of having the flu but to be safe inquire prior to booking. Travel insurance may also be well worth it's cost as is health insurance for your trip since most plans don't cover medical costs abroad.

While traveling, take sensible precautions. Keep your hands and your kids' hands clean. Teach them the importance of washing for 20 seconds or more and carry plenty of antibacterial wipes or alcohol-based gels. Teach them to keep their hands away from their face so the germs can't get into their nose, eyes, or mouth. Stay away from very crowded areas. If you must take public transportation do so before or after morning or afternoon rush hours. Inquire about less busy times at attractions and museums and try to plan your visits then. If you notice someone who is visibly sick stay at least 8 feet away if possible. If not possible, because they are your ticket vendor or stewardess, etc. then simply make sure to wash or disinfect your hands as soon as possible after contact with them or anything they were in contact with and still make an effort to keep your hands away from your face.

Although the H1N1 flu has proven to come with serious complications we have to remember that all flus cause these complications and they are all spread the same way.

My 19 month old recently had the flu. She caught it after being around her school aged cousins. She's been a very healthy baby so it was devastating to see her so sick. She had a high fever, no appetite (couldn't even get her to take liquids), and was almost listless. She only wanted to be held and cried about everything. We noticed her not acting like herself and took her to the pediatrician right before the symptoms were full blown. They tested her for Flu and she proved positive for Flu A (H1N1 is a strain of Flu A). That same day we started with the Tamiflu but because she wasn't eating she kept throwing up after we gave her the dose.

I guess some of it must have been absorbed because after the first two doses and an alternating constant regimen of acetaminophen and ibuprofen every three hours she started eating a bit and drinking water. For two days we were on egg shells terrified that her illness would develop into something much more serious but thankfully she started improving. By day three she almost seemed back to normal. She had a little cough but none the worse for it. It took a few more days to get completely over it and by then our pediatrician confirmed it was H1N1.

I share this to illustrate my point... yes it can be dangerous but it can also be no worse than seasonal flu IF you take care. Get treatment at the first sign of illness. Don't think twice. See your doctor or take your child to see theirs right away and get them tested for flu. The window for the antiviral to work is narrow and you can miss it if you wait too long.

Regardless, don't fear travel, just take sensible precautions and your trip can be just the same and as enjoyable as any other non-flu time of year.

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Kids: Friendly or Not

I realize that people belong to one of two camps: Friendly or Not. I used to think that this was caused by life experiences that turned them off to interaction or because they were either extroverts or introverts but now I'm not so sure. I question this because I've noticed a disproportionate number of kids that seem to fall into the NOT friendly category. Could they all be introverts or are parents not teaching kids how to interact with others?

We have a 19 month old daughter who understands both English and Spanish and has about 10 to 15 words in both languages. Despite a lack of an expansive vocabulary at this time she does not have any trouble communicating non-verbally. She is big for her age... she is as tall or taller than most 2 year olds and maybe some 3 year olds... so most people assume she is older. Now that she is walking around and "talking" I have noticed that most kids we encounter are just not "nice". When she sees other kids she smiles, waves, tries to give them toys, tries to play with them, tries to dance or asks them to follow. She is gently engaging, kind, welcoming and encourages others to join her but most kids turn away, grab their mom, some pout, or worse charge her if she is standing by them. Perhaps her size is the root of the problem since even kids expect her to be able to communicate like them (with words instead of gestures) and may be less receptive to what seems like an older child acting like a "baby".

What's a mom to do? Yes I know that kids this age and very self centered by the nature of their development stage but isn't it the parents' job to encourage them to acknowledged others? Very much like it's our job to make them sleep naps, eat veggies, wash hands, etc.

I always stay by her and make sure she is not "attacking" the kids. She does not yell or charge them... on the contrary she slowly approaches seeking to make eye contact but she seems genuinely sad and disappointed when they won't engage. Usually the moms of these kids act as if we are not even there. They don't say hello or try to encourage their child to wave back or smile. Now that said, I'm not expecting them to have a play date while we shop for clothes or groceries but how could a greeting and a smile hurt? Are we that uncivil? I mean we're supposed to live in a friendly city.

Regardless, I have to say I'm at a loss. I don't want her to feel discouraged or change her natural reaction to involve others. I want her to be the one who thinks of other kids, the one who shares her toys and asks others to join her play but I don't know how to explain or make her feel better when she's snubbed. I'd love your thoughts and advice. Please tell me how you deal with similar situations or if you're the mom who acts as if other kids and parents are not there, can you explain? Maybe if I understand your point of view I can formulate a way to better deal with my child's disappointment. Help me be a better mom. Share your comments as long as they are constructive I'm all ears.