School is out. Summer is here. So much to do and to be excited about! Yet, there is the stress of traveling with your kids during the pandemic this year. Is it safe for my family to go on vacation? How do we comply with regulations? How do I ensure that my child’s physical and mental health are taken care of this summer? How do I make a decision about summer plans that work for us as a family?
Here are some things to think about to manage those feelings of vacation anxiety as you are planning for an upcoming vacation:
Preparation Before Your Trip:
One of the best ways to manage feelings of worry or anxiety is to be prepared. It will help to physically be prepared, by packing the items you will need while away (masks, hand sanitizer, other important hygiene items, etc.). Practice hand-washing, social distancing and mask-wearing at home before your trip. Talk about the fact that this is a goal for everyone, children and adults alike, and that parents will also be practicing! Helping children get used to things while at home will make it easier to expect the same behaviors while away. Preparing for other events, such as what will happen if a place is too crowded or if an attraction is not open, will also be helpful as a family to discuss. If the family knows what to expect in various situations, worry will often decrease.
Taking Care During the Trip:
Check-in with your own feelings often, as well as those of your children, throughout the trip. Anxiety can and will fluctuate, so remaining mindful of the anxiety levels will be important. If something is feeling uncomfortable to you or a family member, talk about it! This will help to create plans, whether that means you are creative about an activity or it means that you skip it altogether. Acknowledge that many parts of the trip may need to change in order to comply with various regulations, which we recognize have been changing daily. Create a safe space for yourself and your family members to identify feelings, even if that impacts the plans for the day.
Create time to debrief with one another after the trip – whether this is during the trip home, or after you return home. Check in with everyone about how they felt while away, what were their worries, what did they enjoy the most, etc. This not only helps adults to learn about how the child is feeling, but helps the child learn how to identify and process emotions. We may find that anxiety was very high before the trip, but didn’t last long while away (or vice versa). Debriefing will help everyone process what has happened, and will help with the planning stage for whatever adventure is coming next – school included!