Going on trips with the whole family is a great opportunity to make new memories but there are a lot of factors to consider when traveling with young children. From the right traveling documents to packing the correct amount of diapers, adjusting to a time change is often overlooked when preparing for a trip. For international travel, time changes can affect everyone in your family. Young children aren’t able to really understand what a time change is but they do feel that their circadian rhythm has changed. Here are some helpful ways to help young children adjust to a time change while traveling.
How Time Changes Affect Young Children
Even small time changes can disrupt your child’s routine so preparing them for a trip is crucial. Your child doesn’t know why they’re feeling more tired or energetic at times during the day where they usually aren’t, so it can be frustrating trying to express how their body is dealing with it. Even during trips that don’t involve too much of a time change, young children are often displeased with a change in their routine. This is exactly why preparing your child for a time change is so important.
1. Talk With Your Child
Young children have great comprehension skills so it’s worth a try to explain time changes to your little one. This can be an overall educational opportunity for them as they learn how the world experiences each day differently than them. Use a revolving globe or map to demonstrate how one side of the earth is dark at the same time that the other side is light. You can point to where you are located on the map and show them the route to your destination. Let them know about the trip details and what is planned for it so they’re eager and excited about the upcoming change. It’s important to approach this situation with enthusiasm and honesty so they’re not blindsided by a time change.
2. Prepare for Your Trip
To properly prepare for your trip, get all the information about it weeks beforehand if possible. Make note of the time difference, how early the sun sets and rises, and then compare it to your current time, sunrises and sunsets. This may seem tedious, but a young child needs a solid routine and a trip with a time difference can mess with that routine. Getting all the information you can about your destination will help you be better equipped to handle it as a parent. This is also the perfect time to create your list of essentials for the trip. The Voyager Travel Pillow is a great way for your child to keep comfortable on long-haul flights.
3. Practice a New Routine
Once you have all the information about your trip, it’s time to start practicing and implementing a new routine. We suggest starting about two weeks before the actual trip to get them acclimated to the time change. You can start putting them to bed a maximum of two hours before or after their normal bedtime, but definitely work up to those two hours instead of starting out with it. For the first week, you can go from 30 minutes to an hour before their bedtime then on the second week you can start going an hour to two hours before their normal bedtime. Even if the time change is more than two hours, changing their sleep schedule dramatically won’t help too much. Once the trip starts, they’ll be more inclined to go to bed earlier or later than normal and be able to adjust easier.
4. Show Patience During Your Trip
Even as you prepare your young child for the time change, don’t expect them to be able to carry out the new routine as soon as you get to your destination. As a parent, it’s important to practice patience with your child in all situations including this one. Stick firmly to your new routine but still show them grace if they try to stay up later or go to bed much earlier than anticipated. The trip has caused a disruption in their normal routine, not just yours, so keep your composure when things don’t go as planned. For long-term trips, it will get easier over time while short-term trips may be more difficult on your child.
5. Decompress After the Trip
Once the trip has ended and your family is back home, it’s time to adjust to another time change. For long-term trips, you can start implementing a routine towards the end of it to help your child with the time change while short-term trips won’t have that luxury. Keep in mind that your child will be adjusting to another change and it may frustrate them. Show them love and patience during this time to help them get back to their normal routine. In just a few days, they’ll be able to get back to their normal sleeping schedule and you’ll have all the memories of that trip. International travel is a great way to expose your children to different cultures and the world outside their own home.