School is out for the summer and for a number of families that means that it is time to hit the road and take a break from the regular work and school routine. It is a chance to relax on a favorite beach and leave behind all of their everyday stressors. For parents of children with sensory sensitivities associated with neurobehavioral disorders who become overwhelmed by sudden changes to their environment or to unusual or unknown stimuli, vacation can be a bit of challenge.
Many families begin planning and discussing the trip long before the actual event in order to allow the child time to process the idea of change. Here are a few ways in which you can introduce the idea of the vacation to your child that may help elevate some level of anxiety before heading out on the road.
Prepare a Detailed Itinerary:
In so much as it is possible, create a travel itinerary that details the route, destination, expectations for the trip and things that might be of interest to the child along the way. Children who suffer from processing disorders are often more capable of managing their stress if they have an idea of what to expect ahead of time. Prior to heading out on the road, sit down with your child and walk them through the trip. Talk to them about situations that you know might trigger a response and let them know ahead of time what you expect while traveling. It might be good to laminate a special copy of the map for your child so that it is available for reference during the trip. This will allow you both to be on the same page and also eliminate some of the “when are we going to be there?” questions that might arise along the way.
Create Space for “Down Time”:
Build down time into the schedule so that the entire family knows when to expect it. Letting everyone know that each day there will be a period of time for quiet and rest will allow everyone an opportunity to recharge each day.
Pack Favorite Foods and Snacks:
The change of environment may be difficult enough without your child not having access to his or her favorite foods. Be sure to pack a favorite snack to ensure that there will be something familiar on hand.
Try to relax and enjoy the vacation. If your child feels as though those around him are enjoying themselves, there is a higher chance that he will relax and take an active part in the vacation as well.