Congratulations new adoptive parents! You now have “one more” added to your growing family, and although you can expect some difficult transition times in the near future, you have never felt so full. Whether you are on your pick-up trip and headed home, or have already had your little one in your family for some time, you may have some travel time looming off in the distance.
Traveling as a new adoptive parent can look differently from traveling with a newborn, or traveling with a bunch of teenagers. New adoptive parents may be dealing with children who have attachment issues, fear of travel/cars/the unknown/new places, communication barriers, sensory disorders, trauma, etc. Despite the special circumstances adoptive parents face, traveling doesn’t have to be something to fear.
Here are five tried-and-true travel tips for new adoptive parents that will help ease your trip, and, hopefully, make it an enjoyable one.
Love the layovers.
If you’re flying as new adoptive parents and have your new little one in tow, use your layovers as time to regroup. Rushing can make things more difficult for a child who has never flown, or has a fear of new places, so taking the time to walk slowly through a new airport may make the difference between a good or chaotic connecting flight. Enjoy the new place, get some food, and give your child a chance to decompress, either with you or alone. Removing stress about timing will only help put your child more at ease.
Food is everything.
If your child enjoys food, this can be your ticket to sanity. If you’re flying, take offs and landings can be difficult for littles with sensitive ears. A bottle works wonders if they’re small, and gum or gummies can work if they’re older. Even if you’re not flying, snacks can be a great way to ease discomfort or pass some serious time. Take a fishing tackle box, the kind with all the small compartments, and fill each separate area with a different lovable snack. They’ll be so excited about all the options, it’ll keep them busy for quite a while, and you’ll even get some fine motor practice in. For those new adoptive parents with children who have food issues, this can make things tricky. The squeezable pouches have saved many who have children who can’t chew. Even sippy cups full of different kinds of juice can be enough of a variation to help the stress of travel.
Therapy can travel, too.
A weighted blanket, or even something as simple as a sock filled with beans, can really help calm a sensory-sensitive child when in the midst of travel. Traveling can be scary, especially if your child hasn’t done it before, so something that gives your child some calming sensory input can really help chill nerves. Plus, if your child will be needing (or is already involved in) occupational therapy, I’m sure your therapist will be quite proud.
If you’ve got them, wear them.
If your child is young enough, or small enough, wear them! Babywearing is such a wonderful way to encourage bonding and attachment, and it creates a sense of trust and calm during moments where your child may be on alert. There are so many different style of carriers out there, from wraps to ring slings to soft structured carriers; so do your research and learn your preferences. Even if your child is bigger, they have carriers designed to hold kindergarteners and beyond. Babywearing could be a lifesaver for you in a new country, in an airport, on a plane, or in a new vacation spot.
Don’t stress over the mess.
Even if things are going horribly and your child is having out-of-this-world level meltdowns, don’t stress. Traveling can be tough on a newly adopted child. Everything they’ve ever known was most likely just recently removed, and the fear of that happening again could cause so many emotions, maybe all at once. Help show your child love, comfort, joy, and peace by utilizing your adoptive education and training techniques. Let your child regroup however is needed.
Even if traveling to the beach for the first time ended with seven out of eight days in the hotel, that’s okay. Next time will be better. Each travel experience will be a little better; because as your child learns to trust, they’ll learn that even new places can be fun. Don’t let them see you stress–your calm can be their calm.
Traveling doesn’t have to be scary. For new adoptive parents, traveling may look differently than it does for your friends. But, with the right tools and tricks in your back pocket, even the toughest days can be wins.