Traveling with children can be challenging. Their natural energy can make it very difficult to sit still in a car or on a plane for extended periods. And taking them out of their normal routine can lead to issues like trouble sleeping and lack of appetite. When a child has an anxiety disorder, going on a trip can be especially stressful for them and their parents.
Anxiety Disorder Symptoms
There are multiple types of anxiety disorders. They include:
- Panic disorder in which an episode strikes at random and can make the person feel like they are having a heart attack or suffocating
- Social anxiety disorder in which a person experiences overwhelming worry about everyday social situations
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in which a person has ongoing unrealistic worries
- Phobias in which a person has an intense aversion to a specific object or action
While these disorders differ somewhat from one another, all anxiety disorders share some common symptoms such as:
- Fear and uneasiness
- Shortness of breath
- Sleep difficulties
- Inability to remain calm or to be still
- Sweaty, numb, cold or tingling hands or feet
- Excessive muscle tension
- Heart palpitations
- Dry mouth
In children with an anxiety disorder, traveling can intensify one or more of these symptoms. And if it does, parents can feel the effects as well.
Take Time for Self-Care
If your travels involve flying, you will see the presentation from flight attendants about using the oxygen mask and how you should apply yours first before helping someone else with theirs. That concept applies to mental health situations as well. In order to help your child have a travel experience that is as positive as possible, you need to ensure that you tend to your mental and emotional health too.
Here are some things you can do to address your own needs on a trip with a child who has anxiety:
- Include plenty of downtime in your agenda. Ensuring that there are many “rest times” in your days will help your child be more calm, which in turn will help you be more relaxed.
- Tag-team care. If you are traveling with another adult, find times when each of you can get off on your own for a bit while the other person takes care of the child.
- Consider taking a trusted caregiver with you. If you have a babysitter or nanny that your child trusts, you can take them with you on the trip so you and your spouse or significant other can have some time away from parenting together.
- Have a fun way to fill nap time. If your child naps during the day, take advantage of that time to read a book, watch a favorite TV show or movie, play cards or do anything you enjoy.
- Be aware of meal times. Meal times during vacations may fluctuate. While adults can skillfully skip meals and/or go with late dinners, this suspension from routine is not as comfortable for some children who may understandably become irritable when hungry.
- Plan a post-vacation vacation. Schedule some time for after you return from your vacation when you can relax before resuming your normal routine. Having that time to look forward to can make it easier to handle the challenges that come up on your trip.
Your Strategy for a Successful Summer Vacation
Your child’s anxiety doesn’t have to diminish the fun of your vacation. By coming up with a strategy, you can ensure that the whole family enjoys the trip. If you have questions about childhood anxiety or any mental health concern, please contact us online at communityreachcenter.org or by phone at 303-853-3500 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. We have centers in the Denver metro area of Adams County including the cities of Thornton, Westminster, Northglenn, Commerce City and Brighton.