Tag Archives: holidays

Stranger = Danger…Except for Santa Claus!

santa-blogKids love Santa! He brings them toys, and has great songs and stories that they want to hear over and over. Children often enthusiastically agree to visit Santa to tell him about their Christmas lists. But parents are then confronted with the dilemma of taking said kids to visit Santa only to have the same enthusiasm replaced with tears. There is no shortage of images on the web of children dressed in their holiday best, howling on Santa’s lap with outstretched arms toward a parent who has abandoned them just out of frame. I also remember being wary of a man entering our house unnoticed as a child, even if he was bringing presents. Here are a few tips for parents who want to help their children enjoy this holiday tradition and maybe even ace that holiday photo.

First, recognize that stranger anxiety is a healthy and expected developmental phase for young children. Toddlers and preschoolers are most likely to fear a visit to Santa. As familiar as the character of Santa becomes for young children through stories, images, and songs it still feels jarring to go up to a large man with a face-covering beard, in a loud red costume, and sit on his lap to have a heart to heart. Try to give your child more control in the situation. You can do this by letting them bring a lovey, decide whether they will speak or not, watch older siblings or friends go first, or letting them walk up to Santa and decide if they want to sit or stand.

Second, let your child know what to expect in advance and give them an out at any time. You can even do this by acting it out with your child during play at home. If your child does not feel overwhelmed by the novelty of the situation, he or she is more likely to handle the experience with less fear. The additional control and trust that is established if your child knows he or she can opt out of the Santa meet and greet at any time will also promote bravery and comfort.

Third, approach the event with your own anxiety in check. If you are worried about how your child will react, if it will go well, or if your child will be polite, that worry will register to your child and make them feel there is something to worry about. For example, if you follow the advice above and give your child an out, mention it but do not repeat it with pressured speech every time the line advances forward. After the 5th repetition of “we don’t have to do this if you aren’t ready,” your child will imagine terrible things they SHOULD opt out of at the front of the line and take your cue. Be relaxed, supportive, upbeat and open to hearing what your child is feeling. If you can take the pressure off your child will be more likely to enjoy him or herself.

Finally, don’t sweat it if your child gets upset when the moment arrives. Usually the fear of Santa disappears as children enter elementary school age with no lasting scars of Christmas’ past. And it’s nothing that can’t be soothed with a hug from you and perhaps a hot chocolate on the way home.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Lauren Knickerbocker, PhD, is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Health. Dr. Knickerbocker specializes in treating selective mutism and anxiety in young children, ADHD and difficulties with organization and time management, disruptive behaviors, and parent management training. She is also the co-director of Early Childhood Service at NYU Langone’s Child Study Center, a part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital.

Holiday Hothead? Tips for Preventing and Managing Your Child’s Holiday Behavior Problems

holiday-upset

It can be the most wonderful time of the year! It can also be a stressful time for parents who worry about how their child will behave at events with family and friends. The hustle and bustle of the season, changes to daily routines, parties, and gifts can contribute to parent-child conflict and meltdowns. The following tips will help you prevent problems and keep the season festive for all.

Anticipate potential problems
Different aspects of the season will be challenging for different children. Take a few minutes to think what parts may be hard for your child. For instance, will your child have trouble playing nicely with the children of relatives and family friends? Do you worry that your child may have tantrums or show disrespect if disappointed about a gift, or test the limits and try to get away with more than what is allowed at home? Problems during holiday travel are also common.

Set up for success
—Playing nicely with others: If your child tends to have trouble playing with others during less structured times, consider planning activities for an event you are hosting, such as cookie decorating, holiday coloring projects, holiday movies, and other games. Try to limit less-structured times if possible. If you are visiting instead of hosting, see if you can bring some activities for all of the children or ones your child can do independently such as stories, paper snowflakes, and coloring books.
—Avoiding meltdowns over gifts: Talk to your child in advance about the reason behind gift giving and the need to be polite to everyone who gives them a gift. Let them know it’s okay to be disappointed, but they still need to show respect. Get them involved in the giving process by picking out gifts for family and friends or donating toys for children less fortunate. Role play situations that may come up, like getting a hand knit sweater instead of that new video game they’ve been wanting.
—Travel tips: If your plans include a lot of travel, consider scheduling it during your child’s nap or at night so they can sleep. You can also bring snacks and toys, sing holiday songs, play games like 20 Questions, and consider using electronics, especially if you have a long flight or drive.
—Testing limits: Decide if it’s realistic and appropriate to use any punishment strategies. Knowing in advance if you will take away privileges or use a timeout will help you avoid making threats that only serve to frustrate you and your child when you cannot follow through.
—Scheduling: For any child who struggles to manage their behavior and emotions, longer days and events will test their resources to keep it together. Consider shortening visits and even saying no to some invites if the day is going to be too action-packed. It’s better to have shorter, more pleasant get-togethers than one that ends in an epic meltdown. If shortening a visit is not an option, see if there is a quieter place in the home for your child to take a couple breaks.
—Have a “worst case scenario” plan: This could be pulling your child aside for a break, having them stay with you if they are having trouble getting along with other children, or even leaving early if you are visiting. Make sure that you are comfortable following through with anything on the plan. Knowing the specific plan will help you feel most prepared.

Review expectations ahead of time
Based on the anticipated problems, let your child know exactly what you expect during holiday visits. Avoid vague expectations such as “Behave” and instead state clearly what behavior you want to see, like “Listen to me,” or “Share toys with other children.” Try to use positive language. Tell your child, “Say thank you for gifts even if it’s not what you were hoping for,” instead of “Don’t be rude.” Choose your battles carefully to focus on the most important goals–which can mean letting go of some limits you normally place. For example, it may not be critical to limit your child to one treat, especially if other children will likely have more and it will be hard for you to fully monitor while spending time with relatives.

During get-togethers
Instead of waiting for the end of a party, try giving frequent spontaneous feedback when you see your child following set expectations to build positive momentum. Make statements such as, “I’m so proud of you for playing nicely,” or “You did a great job being polite to thank grandma for the mittens and hat.” If you start noticing problems, stay as calm as possible (which will help your child stay calm) and use your “worst case scenario” plan. You may feel like other friends and relatives are judging your parenting. Try to remember that every parent has dealt with outbursts and problematic behavior at one point or another; some may just have trouble remembering or feel like they have to share their behavior management tip at an inopportune time.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Stephanie Wagner, Ph.D., is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center. She specializes in behavioral treatments for sleep as well as providing psychosocial interventions, including parent training, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), and school consultation to parents and teachers of children with ADHD and disruptive behavior disorders. She is also the co-director of Early Childhood Service at NYU Langone’s Child Study Center.

Starting Holiday Traditions with your Little Ones

 

cookies

It’s that time of year again! Young children are already full of holiday cheer and excitement at the prospect of presents, treats, and more family time. Making new holiday traditions with your toddler (or bringing them into your existing traditions) is a wonderful opportunity to strengthen family bonds and promote their healthy development. Here are few toddler-centered milestones to consider when making your own family traditions for this holiday season.

Independence: To foster the independence that toddlers crave, try giving them a job that makes them feel central to the ritual and they can continue to do every year as they grow. For example, letting them light the candles (with supervision!) on a menorah, advent wreath, angel chimes, or centerpiece before a family meal can make them feel proud to be trusted with such a grown up responsibility. Toddlers just want to feel included and to be able imitate what they see you doing. Another fun tradition could be to bake special cookies together and make your toddler the “Chief Decorator” or “Sprinkles Fairy” to give them their special role. For families considering the long term goals of independence, gifting each child a new ornament every year to eventually move with them to their own homes as adults is a thoughtful and heartfelt tradition.

Empathy building: Toddlers are also the perfect age to learn more about empathy and civic mindedness. They will learn and embody these characteristics best by watching you model these values, and participating in the experience of giving back. Take them to buy a present and bring it to a local charity or event for children who do not have resources. Sing Christmas carols or spend time with the elderly at a local nursing home. Make meals for the homeless. Any volunteer opportunities that are family friendly will benefit the cause you are helping as well as your child’s sense of belonging to a community that values each other.

Family Bonding: Match your family vibe to a tradition that creates warm family connections. Are you a favorite movie with a big blanket and snacks family? A creative family that can make up songs or decorate ornaments together? A family who embodies “the more the merrier” mantra who can host a festive holiday get together? I know many families who create traditions that incorporate games and reading aloud during the lead-up to holidays. One family unwraps a new board game each Christmas Eve and they play all together in their pajamas while they snack on sweets. Another family asks each member to write a letter to the other members to express their love and gratitude for that person or something that happened that year (the two year old dictates hers). The letters end up in their stockings to be read aloud Christmas morning. What a wonderful lesson that would be for little ones learning about gratitude and love for others!

Making Good Memories: Whatever you decide to do to mark the holidays in your home, think about making a family tradition that will feel special and exciting to your little ones. It could be as simple as breaking routine at bedtime to stay up for a special treat or a family sleepover. You want a tradition to stand the test of time as your child grows up and ideally is something everyone looks forward to when the holidays roll around. (This may be a tall order for some adolescents who eye roll their way through family time). Make your traditions and rituals a multi-sensory experience that will make good memories filled with warmth, scents, sounds, tastes, and vibrancy. Fond memories of family holidays are treasured far longer than most gifts we receive. After all, it’s not just about getting matching family pajamas; it’s what you do together while you’re wearing them.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Lauren Knickerbocker, Ph.D., is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center. Dr. Knickerbocker specializes in treating selective mutism and anxiety in young children, ADHD and difficulties with organization and time management, disruptive behaviors, and parent management training. She is also the co-director of Early Childhood Service at NYU Langone’s Child Study Center.

Happy Holidays from Kidz Central Station!

BackgroundCHRISTMASLIGHTSv2(red)(LS)withHAPPYHOLIDAYS(E)Happy Holidays! We at Kidz Central Station want to thank you, all of our amazing and loyal members, readers, and followers for your support this year, and for helping us make Kidz Central Station the go-to place for finding and enrolling in NYC kids’ activities! It’s been another great year with lots of exciting accomplishments! In 2015:

The site has almost doubled to include over 5,000 classes, camps, and activities!

We’re going international! Launching in early 2016, Kidz Central Station UK will be the go-to website for finding the best kids’ activities in London’s metro area!

We’ve continued to improve the site, based on your feedback! We now have gift cards (a great holiday gift!) as well as a homepage event calendar that makes it even easier for NYC families to find and book classes in music, gymnastics, tennis, and more! Parents also have a range of scheduling options—from semester classes and drop-in activities to holiday camps and theater for kids.

Our team has grown—three new team members joined this year!

We’ve had some amazing press this year! If you missed it, we were featured in The Wall Street Journal and on WPIX 11 News

We hosted tons of awesome events, including pop-up parties with our favorite NYC kids’ programs and a holiday shopping event at Toys “R” Us Times Square with great sponsors, holiday giveaways, and lots of family activities. We can’t wait to host more fun events in 2016!

Thank you for being a part of our success this year—we appreciate all of your support, feedback, and time spent on the site. We wish you a very happy holiday and a wonderful new year—here’s to a fantastic 2016!

Is Santa Real? Tips for Answering the Big Question This Season


The holiday season, while typically a time for celebrations with family and friends, can also be stressful for parents as they scramble to shop for the perfect presents, cook holiday meals, and see extended family. A unique source of concern this time of year involves the dreaded question. I’m not talking about the “Are we there yet?” question from young travelers or the “Do I have to share my new toy?” complaint from siblings. I’m talking about the inquiry into Santa’s existence. Here are some tips for what to do when your child looks you in the eye and asks, “Is Santa real?”

Child development experts typically agree that believing in Santa Claus is not harmful for children. It’s similar to a number of other childhood myths like the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy. Myths are fun for children who are developing creativity and imagination. Holiday myths often involve family traditions that bring parents and children together, including visiting and taking pictures with Santa, writing him letters with Christmas lists, and leaving out milk and cookies on Christmas Eve. Most of these traditions foster family togetherness and also offer fun opportunities to work on skills such as writing or baking. For families who do not celebrate Christmas or decide not to go along with the Santa story, there’s no harm in skipping out on this tradition either. There’s plenty of other great ways to foster family traditions and child creativity.

If you are a family who gets a visit from Santa each year, there is no perfect time to break the news to your child. Children question and give up the myth of Santa Claus at different times. Some will ask after talking to other children at school, while others will begin to think critically about the logic. For instance, your child may begin to test the story with questions like “How does Santa fit all the presents in one sleigh?” and “How does he get around the entire world in one night?”

When your child starts asking questions, resist the urge to either cover for Santa with a lie or spill the beans about the myth. Instead, it’s helpful to ask some follow up questions to see what your child knows and wants to believe. While some children logically understand that Santa does not exist, they may not be ready to completely give him up. Your child may ask, “Why does Santa look different in different places?” If your response is, “What do you think?” your child has the opportunity to say, “Well, I think it’s because he’s not real,” indicating she may be ready to give up Santa or “I guess he has helpers,” which suggests she is not yet ready.

When your child’s response suggests that he or she is ready to let go of Santa, consider starting other holiday traditions. This can include shopping and donating gifts for children in need or helping to keep the myth going for younger siblings.

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Stephanie Wagner, Ph.D., is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center. She specializes in behavioral treatments for sleep as well as providing psychosocial interventions, including parent training, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), and school consultation to parents and teachers of children with ADHD and disruptive behavior disorders. She is also the co-director of Early Childhood Service at NYU Langone’s Child Study Center.

Give a Cheer, Winter Break Camps Are Here!

While we all love the holidays—the lights, the parties, the all-around happiness in the air—when school vacation comes panic often sets in. . . .

“I’m not going away, so what on earth do I do with my kids for two weeks with no school to keep them busy?!?!”

We all love our kids and spending quality time together, but many parents work over school holiday break and don’t get time off, and others simply need time to themselves in order to maintain sanity. Luckily there’s a solution . . . winter break camps!

Kidz Central Station is chock full of winter break activities this year—camps and workshops that last anywhere from a day to a week and offer kids awesome ways to spend their time and parents the peace of mind that their kids are safe and happy while school’s out. Check out a few of our awesome offerings below in neighborhoods throughout NYC, and visit Kidz Central Station for a full listing!

Green Ivy Enrichmentstandard_Cooking_Cookies_6’s Winter Wonderland Camp in Battery Park City is a great drop-off program for kids age 2.5 to 6. Running December 21-23 and December 28-30, each day campers explore winter-themed arts and crafts and enjoy music, theater games, outdoor play (weather permitting of course!), cookie making, and science experiments.

For uptown kids, Art Farm in the City’s winter break program is sure to keep kids busy and having fun! Also running December 21-23 and December 28-30, this camp is split into three different age groups (age 3-4, 4-5, and 5-8) with half- and full-day options available. A day here includes creating artistic masterpieces, baking goodies, and singing favorite songs to a live guitar, as well as lots of playtime with animals!

standard_winter_break_camp_collageBrand new to Kidz Central Station, Kids in the Game is a sports and fitness program that keeps kids active and having fun—and winter break is no different. During this program’s winter break camp, kids age 3-13 can participate in one or two three-day sessions (December 21-23 and December 28-30), and enjoy tons of fun activities, such as fitness games, team sports, arts and crafts, yoga, zumba, and themed days. There is even an after care program, so if you’re a working parent, there’s flexibility in when you can pick kids up!

Located in Soho, Citibabes has a Winter Wonderland Camp that kids are sure to love! Running from 9am-12pm for ages 2 and 3 and from 9am-2pm for older 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds, this camp includes winter-themed activities, science experiments, movement games, dance, music, arts and crafts, and fun on Citibabes’ toasty-warm indoor playground! Like the others, camp runs December 21-23 and December 28-30, so parents are assured plenty of time each week where their children are occupied and having a blast!

Holiday Gift Tips: What You Need to Know About Toy Safety

Kid girl playing toys at home or kindergarten

In my house, holiday time means family, closeness, traditions, good food, and TONS of new toys! While these gifts are fun and exciting for children (and grown-ups!), it’s important to choose toys that are safe and developmentally appropriate. Read on for important tips for choosing the best—and safest—kids’ toys.

Avoid toys with small parts. Young children explore the world through their mouths—you’ve probably noticed that your baby almost immediately puts a new object in her mouth. While this is a normal part of child development, it’s important to ensure that any toys you bring into your home do not pose choking risks for your children. If you have older children, any of their toys with small parts should be placed in a storage bag and clearly labeled. Only allow your child to play with these toys when your little one isn’t around, and place all contents back in the bag and on a high shelf afterward he or she is done playing.

Avoid toys with long strings or cords. Children can accidentally wrap these around their necks, which can cause strangulation. Keep this in mind with mobiles in your child’s crib. Once your child has started to grab for things it is best to remove the mobile.

Buy toys in the United States. The U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission (CPSC) closely monitors all toys made in the United States and ensures that they follow strict safety guidelines. All toys made in the United States or imported in after 1995 must comply with these standards.

Avoid toys with small magnets. Magnets used in children’s toys can be very powerful and extremely dangerous if swallowed. If two magnets are swallowed it can lead to intestinal obstruction, injury, and perforation.

Choose age-appropriate toys. Most toys will be labeled with the age that the toy is appropriate for. Follow these guidelines and be realistic about your child’s abilities. Ask family members to choose gifts that are within the age guidelines for your child.

Avoid button batteries. Avoid all toys that are controlled by lithium button battery devices. Ingestion of these batteries is very dangerous, as they can cause severe esophageal burns in as little as two hours. If you suspect your child has ingested a button battery, go to the emergency room immediately.

Don’t forget a helmet for riding toys. Scooters and bicycles can make great holiday presents, but it’s important that your child wears a helmet at ALL times when using them.

Sign up for toy recalls. You can sign up for toy recalls at Safe Kids Worldwide. This way you’ll know if your child’s favorite toy ends up on the recall list.

While toys should be fun, child safety is the number one priority. Play with your child and encourage creativity by using age-appropriate and safe toys. Enjoy this time with your child, and happy holidays!

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Deena N. Blanchard, MD, MPH, is a clinical instructor in the Department of Pediatrics at NYU Langone Medical Center and a partner at Premier Pediatrics.

‘Tis the Season for Shopping: Age-Appropriate Gift Guidelines for Kids

The holiday shopping season has arrived, and for those of us with little ones, it can be a challenge to choose a gift that’s both age-appropriate and helpful for development. We’ve all seen the recommended ages on packages for toys and games, but what are really the best toys for your kids?

The great news is that play is not only fun and universal for children of all ages, but it’s actually necessary for ideal development. Toys designed with a child’s current developmental level in mind will promote growth and mastery of new skills and ideas. Here are some guidelines to help you as you’re making your list (and checking it twice):

Little Ones:
0-6 months: Babies birth to six months are learning to control head movement, sit up, and take notice of the world around them. They enjoy toys that engage their senses of touch and developing vision, and help them master grasping—think shaking toys like rattles and something fun to look at during tummy time, like colorful, soft stuffed animals.

6-12 months: Babies on the move like soft toys that will probably end up in their mouths for some period of time (so no small parts!) and that interact with their senses. Bright colors, sounds, and varied textures are engaging. Try simple musical instruments, soft blocks, and push and pull toys.

1-3 years: Toddlers are starting to explore cause and effect relationships and develop more fine motor dexterity—and they do it all while on the move! They like toys with buttons that cause music, lights, and sounds; stacking and sorting toys; picture books; and things that mimic the everyday activities around them: kitchen equipment, a playhouse, or other play household items.

3-5 years: Preschoolers love to do things for themselves, explore outside, and create with imaginative play and materials. Puzzles, clay, safety scissors, paper, books, pretend play tools, and the like are great for development. They are also starting to learn more about how to share and take turns, so early games with turn taking and simple rules, like memory games and short board games, can be introduced.

Big Kids:
5-11 years: Elementary school age children are learning about nature, reading, playing collaboratively, and experiencing further cognitive development. Books that blend pictures and information are great for book lovers. Art supplies are popular for a wide range of kids, and games that encourage their interests and can be played with other children are a good bet. This could include sports equipment, creative arts, board games, music games, and building toys. Science and engineering toys are also a great option.

11-14 years: Middle schoolers are trying to fit in with friend groups and keep up with the demands of school and extracurricular activities. Ask them what they want and keep in mind the benefits of limiting screen time so that physical and outdoor play are not sacrificed.

As you make your shopping list, try to incorporate the interests of the child in your selections. Even very small children have preferences: some like animals and others like dress-up or things that move. The most important tip is to find a toy or game that will appeal to your child’s interests.

Happy holidays, and happy shopping!

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Lauren Knickerbocker, Ph.D., is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone Medical Center. Dr. Knickerbocker specializes in treating selective mutism and anxiety in young children, ADHD and difficulties with organization and time management, disruptive behaviors, and parent management training. She is also the co-director of Early Childhood Service at NYU Langone’s Child Study Center.

Helping Trick-or-Treaters with Food Allergies, One Teal Pumpkin at a Time

Teal Pumpkin
Before stocking up on Halloween candy this year, consider this: according to Food Allergy Research and Education Inc., 1 in every 13 trick-or-treaters ringing your doorbell this year may have a food allergy—and in many cases are allergic to the treats you are handing out. The top eight food allergens that cause about 90% of reactions are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish, and shellfish; reactions to allergens vary from mild symptoms of itchy mouth or throat to very severe consequences like anaphylaxis. Aside from having a food allergy, there are countless other medically indicated reasons why children need to adhere to special diets. In our country, more than three million people2 have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that damages the lining of the intestine when gluten from wheat, barley, or rye is consumed. Irritable bowel syndrome and epilepsy are two other conditions that may require special diets to mitigate symptoms.

Teal 2While some really helpful resources exist, like the Celiac Disease Foundation’s 2015 Gluten-Free Halloween Candy List, it can still be daunting to find Halloween candy that’s suitable for each trick-or-treater’s special diet needs. A quick read of a Snickers® Bar food label reveals it contains, milk, soy, peanuts, eggs, and may contain tree nuts. Tootsie Pops, although gluten and peanut free, contain soy and milk, according to the label. Luckily, in 2014, FARE organized a campaign to raise awareness about trick-or-treaters with food allergies, which is also helpful to kids on special diets.

The Teal Pumpkin Project™ encourages households to include kids with food allergies in trick-or-treating by offering non-food treats (playing cards, stickers, bubbles, glow sticks) in place of candy. The mark of a food-allergy safe home offering non-food treats? A teal painted pumpkin on the doorstep (teal is the official color representing food allergy awareness). If you don’t feel up to painting your pumpkin teal, check out FARE’s website for free downloadable signs, pumpkin carving stencils, and coloring pages. In its first year (2014), The Teal Pumpkin Project™ reached trick-or-treaters in all 50 states and seven countries! FARE is challenging 100,000 households to participate this year by taking the Teal Pumpkin Project™ Pledge.

For more information about the NYU Langone Medical Center’s Celiac Disease and Gluten Related Disorders Program, email: celiacdiseaseprogram@nyumc.org

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Jackie Ballou, MS, RD, CDN, Pediatric Nutrition Coordinator and Director of the S.Q.U.A.S.H. Program (Smart choices, Quality ingredients, Unique, Appetizing, Simple & Healthy) at NYU Langone Medical Center.

Sources:

  1. (Children in the U.S., 18 years or younger) http://www.foodallergy.org/facts-and-stats
  2. Rubio-Tapia A, Ludvigsson JF, Brantner TL, Murray JA, Everhart JE. The prevalence of celiac disease in the United States. American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2012 Oct;107(10):1538–44.

Traveling with Kids: Tips for Getting to Your Destination without Drama

Make your family travel less stressful!The holiday season can be a hectic time of year with shopping, parties, and family gatherings that sometimes involve traveling. When traveling with kids, the announcements of “Are we there yet?” “I’m bored,” and “I have to go to the bathroom,” are common. In addition to these announcements, yelling, sibling arguments, teasing, and other disruptive behaviors can make parents feel like they need a vacation after their “vacation.” The following strategies will help manage common child behaviors to help everyone survive and hopefully enjoy the season.

Minimize and Plan for Down-time: Preventing your child from feeling “bored” is key as boredom often precedes behavior problems. Strategies that can help prevent boredom and behavior problems include:

• Plan your travel time and route strategically to avoid rush hour, long layovers, or situations that will lengthen your travel if possible.

• Considering planned stops during road trips in addition to the typical bathroom and food stops. This can include kid-friendly stores like Barnes and Noble or other spots where your children can stretch their legs and explore.

• Bring plenty of snacks and water to avoid meltdowns and crankiness due to hunger.

• Have more planned activities than you anticipate needing. This can include group games such as I Spy and 20 Questions; books and audiobooks; and interactive activities such as Mad Libs, paper and crayons, and other easily transportable activities. Additionally, it may help to have copies of the same materials for each of your young children or create a system for sharing to prevent squabbling among siblings.

• Decide about your child’s use of electronics ahead of time. If you are comfortable with it, electronics, iPads, Nintendo DSs, and portable DVD players can help, especially during long flights. If you want to restrict screen time, it’s best to allow any use at the end of the trip rather than the beginning. This will reduce any issues that could arise when your child has reached his or her screen time limit and help provide entertainment at a much-needed time in the trip.

Take Care of Yourself and Manage Your Own Stress: The holidays can be a stressful time and increased parent stress can interfere with your ability to tolerate and manage problematic behaviors. You can take care of yourself by getting enough sleep and exercise and setting aside a small amount of time every day for relaxation. Even a couple minutes can make a difference. The calmer and more relaxed you are the easier it will be to minimize your child’s difficulties.

Anticipate Problems and Consider a Behavior Chart with Rewards: If you expect your child to struggle in a particular area, consider a behavior chart that encourages him or her to engage in the positive opposite of that problem. You can set up a behavior chart by:

• Identify a likely problem, such as kicking the seat in front of him or her or physically fighting with a sibling.

• Figure out the positive opposite of that problem behavior such as keeping hands and feet to self.

• Decide how often your child needs feedback. For instance, your child might need a sticker or point every 15 minutes during a two-hour car ride for meeting that goal.

• Select a reward for success and criteria for meeting that goal. For example, child can earn reward for earning six out of eight stickers.

 

 

NYULMC-2011_2CP_RGB_300dpiFrom the Real Experts at NYU Langone Medical Center:

Stephanie Wagner, PhD is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at NYU Langone’s Child Study Center. She specializes in providing psychosocial interventions, including parent training, Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), and school consultation to parents and teachers of children with ADHD and disruptive behavior disorders. Additionally, Dr. Wagner has training in pediatric sleep medicine. As part of her clinical practice at the Child Study Center, she provides organizational skills training. During the summer, Dr. Wagner is a clinical supervisor at the NYU Summer Program for Kids.

Dr. Wagner is a member of the Association of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) and Division 53 (Child and Adolescent Psychology) of the American Psychological Association. She has presented her work at national conferences including the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (ABCT) and Parent-Child Interaction Therapy conventions and has authored several articles and book chapters.