Parenting expert, teacher, mother and journalist Anne Coates has a quarter-century of experience with children from babies to teenagers to draw on, and has written on subjects ranging from pre-school education and family-friendly holidays to nutrition. Her latest book – Parenting Without Tears: Living With Teenagers – tackles troublesome teens and their tempestuous ways. Here, the author and parenting site host shares her top travel tips for parents…
Babies: stick to your normal routine, or go with the flow?
Babies love routine, but can be amazingly adaptable. Make sure yours is getting enough rest and it not being overstimulated by her surroundings or people around her. Include some quiet times during your holiday activities but also be open to showing her new experiences. And remember that a longer-than-usual siesta may mean you can dine at a reasonable time in the evening.
Toddlers: how do you coax a tearful tot to sit down and do up their seat belt for take-off?
Have a treat at the ready! For travelling, have a pack of small new toys/books which will engage and distract. Keep calm and try not to worry about what other passengers are thinking. It’s a good idea to chat about flying in an airplane, what happens and wearing seat belts before your flight, so your toddler is prepared. Treats (like chocolate) that they don’t usually have can calm a difficult situation.
Teens: how much freedom should you allow on holiday?
How much freedom you allow your teens depends on their age: a 16-year-old already has more life experience than a 13-year-old. Plus you have to consider your location – I would be wary of relaxing the rules you normally go by too much. Alcohol in some places is far easier to get hold of and teens do not think through the consequences of their actions. Be circumspect. Once you have the lie of the land, you’ll know how relaxed you can be. Make sure your teen is aware of local regulations, cultural differences and customs. But basically, don’t leave your own comfort zone.
How do you deal with bad behaviour in a public place/restaurant?
That really depends on the age of the child. Expecting a toddler to sit through a meal of several courses with pauses in between is unrealistic. Only take children to restaurants that are relatively child-friendly if you are worried about their behaviour. Wherever you go, take something for them to do – a colouring/reading book or what have you – although many restaurants do have children’s activities for the table on standby. If some really unacceptable behaviour occurs, remove the child (go outside if necessary), but do not shout or make a scene that will only escalate the problem. Distraction and praising good behaviour helps – try to ignore minor misdemeanours. This way children learn to attract attention without being naughty!
What’s the parent protocol when your child hits/bites/pushes another in a holiday-resort playground?
My answer would be a question: what do you normally do? If age-appropriate, get your child to apologise and explain why it isn’t kind to push/bite. Hopefully the other child’s parent is nearby (if not, why not?) and can comfort their own offspring if the other child is really upset. Try not to overreact: you may have missed the beginning of the fracas when your child was pushed. Only remove your child from the area if you really can’t get the two children to “kiss and make up”. Apologise to the other parent but don’t get into a heated discussion.
Any tips for dealing with jet lag?
Most people agree that resetting your watch during your flight to the new time zone and timing your eating/sleeping schedule to coincide helps. On arrival, stay awake, if daytime, as long as you can, or vice versa. Some people find homoeopathic Arnica can also help. During the flight, avoid alcohol and caffeinated beverages, and drink plenty of water and or juices. Similarly for children. For small ones make sure they have their usual bedtime toys/comforters on board. Think of some gentle activities for the first day. Hopefully for them they will be more susceptible to sunlight/darkness and will follow your lead.
Anne Coates’ latest Kindle edition Parenting Without Tears: Living With Teenagers (£2.99; Endeavour Press) is available to buy at Amazon.