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Are your kids too young to travel?

My first airplane ride was when I was nine years old - without adults! I remember lining up at the airport check-in.  I remember putting the airplane headset and the blanket inside my bag. I remember taking them out because the stewardess said it's not for free. 😅 I remember they transferred us to the business class section just before landing.  For our two-month-long Japan vacation, I think I remember most of it.

Anna and me. Assisted by the stewardess.
Nowadays, airline tickets are pretty much affordable, so the usual trip to the next town or city has been replaced by a trip to the neighboring country.  Still, it doesn't come cheap when you have kids.  Let's put the cost and cultural factors aside, I know you got that covered now that you are thinking about traveling.

"He's too young to travel, he might get sick".  It's true. Depending on how brave you are, you may want to set a certain age before you bring your kids along.  However, this is certainly a discussion between you and your doctor.  Before traveling, we usually consult our pediatrician.  Different countries require different immunization for protection.  Doctors prescribe emergency medications for different kinds of sickness.  Our pediatrician is very conservative so before she gives the go signal, she requires to see the child a week before the travel.

 "My child said he's afraid to ride an airplane."  Luckily, this is something I did not have to deal with.  In search of answers, I found that there is a lot of help out there on the internet.  There is also professional help from airline companies where you can take your child to courses if they are really terrified, but that should be your last resort.  If your child is just anxious, try out these suggestions by Pediatric Insider.

"Don't travel with your child, you will just have a hard time."   Despite hearing this, I brought 2-year-old Lucas along to Singapore.  True enough, it was so tiring for us! With kids, it means you have more stuff to carry around.  And you know how humid it can get in Singapore, right?  It was so tiring even us adults needed an afternoon nap.  There was a lot of chasing around and laying down on the train station floor! And of course, we didn't get to enjoy the rides in Universal Studios.  Was it worth it? I'd say yes! Every penny and every sweat.

Traveling helps me remember certain life events better.  It's like placing a mark on a timeline.  When my husband and I discuss our life events, they either happened before or after our trips: "Oh, I remember he got sick just before our Singapore trip." It also helps us remember our son's milestone and when it happened: "He started eating solid foods just after our trip to Baguio, right?" Do you have to fly an airplane or take a long road trip? Not necessarily. We don't travel often but we do go to the nearest park almost every weekend and take-out the food that we would otherwise eat in the house (be practical).  As long as it's not part of your routine, it would be memorable.

"It is not for them, it is for us."  Let's agree that we worked hard enough we deserve that break.  Now, we can finally afford to go on vacation. Never mind that we have a toddler in tow. If not now, when, right?  However, again, this kind of thinking stems from the fact that you think children have nothing to gain from traveling.

“Travel is a great foundation for learning life skills that you can’t get at home,” Dr Erica Reischer, a clinical psychologist.  

We went to DisneySea when Lucas was four years old. He was so impatient during the long lines. When you go outside, you have to fall in line for almost every single thing.  Riding the airplane, buying tickets, ordering food, etc.  Yes, traveling teaches them to be patient.  One time, we missed the bus. I was so frustrated because I raced to the bus stop to get there on time.  You know what 5-year-old Lucas said? "It's okay mommy, we will get the next one".  I told him we need to wait for another 30 minutes, and that's a long time.  He said, "It's okay, let's just watch the water stream and I will just play with the rocks". 💓

He also learned to relax around unfamiliar places, greet strangers, strategize when things don't go as planned, ask for help when you don't know what to do or where to go, and learn about weather conditions or language differences.

Which leads me to the most popular dilemma: "It's such a waste! He's too young to remember anything!" Our best travel memories were the ones on the beach.  When he was 10 months old we brought him with us to Boracay.  At 3.5 years old, we went to Palawan.  Will he remember any of it?  Of course not! After all, there is a scientific explanation for that, and it is called childhood amnesia.  Childhood amnesia is the inability of adults to remember episodic memories that happened before the age of three or four years old.  Recent studies have set the starting point at the age of seven years old.  Around four years old, most kids can participate in the guided recollection of an event. At seven years old, they can narrate most of the stories in sequence by themselves.

Okay, so if the argument is memory then it seems that seven years old is the pivotal age for travel.  So what if he won't remember any of it?  I will!

You're still obsessing about that memory loss thing, huh?  Why do you bring the kids to the park? They won't remember it anyway!  Sorry, okay, how about this. Research shows that memory preservation is dependent on maternal narrative style It states that virtually all mothers in modern society reminisce with their younger children about the experience that they shared together.  It is through elaboration style that mothers vary.  "High elaborative mothers talk frequently about the past and engage in long and detailed conversations about what happened.  Low elaborative mothers, in contrast, do not talk about the past as frequently and when they do, they tend to ask few and redundant questions."

See? Parents, you play an important role to preserve experiences for long term recollection!  As the research shows, as long as the kids can participate in guided reminiscing, they have better chances to remember.

What to go beyond elaborative? Use the power of technology to preserve those memories.  Watch this video to get what I mean.

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