Travelling with a gifted kid may seem like something only someone intent on punishing themself would do. Between overexcitabilities and the fact they these kids never seem to turn off, it’s difficult to just make it through the day. When would you even have the time to plan a vacation when you’re parenting a gifted kiddo?!
But what if I told you that travel can be an amazing experience for a family of overexcitable, never stop thinking, over-wired brains? You just need to approach it differently.
We are a family of overthinkers. We mull over the littlest things for hours. So after all of that thinking, sometimes plans don’t meet the expectations of overzealous imaginations. (Prime example: my 4 year old ordered “honeycomb” gelato and was severely disappointed that it was not a Winnie-the-Pooh style ice cream in an actual honeycomb.) It can be a big letdown. Or, on the flip side, we get stressed about the details. This is why it’s a good idea for everyone to be involved with planning. I’ve involved my son with the planning of vacations since his first plane ride at 3 months. Yup, I sat and rambled to a 3 month old all about airplanes and planning and itineraries. At first it was mostly because I was bored and needed someone to talk to. But you know what? It works. Now I make sure I tell my son as much as I can about what we’re planning so he has an idea of what to expect. We look at pictures, watch videos, and get books from the library about the places we’ll be visiting. We even watch ride videos before trips to Disney, and no, it doesn’t ruin the magic. What ruins the magic is a 3 year old refusing to go on any more rides because of that scary thing they didn’t know was going to pop out at them.
Know when to walk away, and when to stick it out
I know, you paid all that money and came all this way. But sometimes, that thing you thought would be oh so fun is really just too overstimulating and loud and crowded. Sometimes, all of the preparations in the world can’t overcome those overexcitabilities. If at all possible, leave and come back. Get some air, let little ears readjust, and take a deep breath. Take a minute to talk it out logically. “I know, my ears feel a little buzzy and it makes my head spin when there are so many people and sounds too! But I really wanted to see that exhibit, maybe if we focus on that one display, it won’t seem so loud.” “Yikes, that dragon sure is scary, but you know, it’s just pretend. It actually took a whole team of scientists and engineers to make it! Maybe if we go in, instead of being scared, we can try to figure out how they did it?” Then, try again. But if it still doesn’t work, and it’s causing a meltdown, walk away. It’s not worth it.
What about those times when you just know in your heart that your kid will love it and just needs a little encouragement? Try to find a way to encourage them to stick it out! Draw their attention to a single detail so they can take one thing in at a time instead of being overwhelmed and finding it all to be too much. Sometimes, all it takes is for them to see mom and dad being confident for them to gain a bit of bravery too!
Don’t make promises
Just don’t do it. Promises have never helped a parent ever. It could rain. A ride could shut down. An exhibit could be closed. Prepare them that the unexpected could happen. And try to model appropriate behaviour when things go wrong. Taking a wrong turn or getting on the wrong train isn’t the end of the world. Laugh it off. It’s an adventure.
Pick something just for them
You can’t expect any kid to just go along and do everything mom and dad want to do all day every day for a week. Make sure the whole family is taking turns and gets to do a “must-do”. Maybe your kiddo loves trains, or science, or art, or literature. Find something unique that you think they’ll love.
Enough with the hard, why travelling with gifted kids is the best!
I think in some ways, I may have it easier travelling with my kid than most parents do with similarly aged kiddos. For one, his reasoning skills are high for his age in most cases. I can usually explain to him why he needs to stay with mommy, or why we can’t do something that we hoped. He was an early reader, which meant I didn’t really have to entertain him while travelling after he was 2. I just give him headphones and a book and bam! Mama can nap. He loves to learn, so bringing him to art galleries and museums is always a winning activity. And if there’s an audio guide, ha! We’re laughing. Always get the audio guide, even if it’s just a scavenger hunt for your kids to find the numbers and press them! On our last vacation I had a chance to observe kids who were and weren’t given audio guides, and my unofficial statistic is that kids with audioguides are more engaged.
My son needs the perfect balance of physical activity and mental stimulation which is always difficult to get at home. But when we’re travelling, he’s walking and learning and guess what… he actually sleeps like a log! Plus, vacation is the one time that I don’t mind that he doesn’t sleep as long as his age mates. It means I don’t have to worry about getting back to the hotel for nap time or an early bed time, and we have more time for sight seeing. Who knew that lack of sleep could have a benefit somewhere? Plus, there’s no laundry or cleaning or cooking to take care of, so we can focus on just being together as a family. And that is priceless.
This blog is a part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Blog Hop: Travelling with the Gifted/Intense. Please click here or on the image below to follow along!