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“…taking hold of the hope set before us…” Hebrews 6:18
Vacations and Traveling
Summer brings with it joy and excitement. There’s warmer weather, days without school, swimming pools, and melting ice cream cones to look forward to. And there are trips to go on!
But summer also brings with it a loss of routine and a freedom to spend extended time together as a family. While many look forward to days not scheduled on the hour for every hour, this change can also be a struggle for families who have adopted. All children thrive on structure, but children who previously lived in foster care or in an orphanage seem to benefit even more from structure.
This doesn’t mean that vacations and trips can’t happen. They can and they should! But, as an adoptive parent, you should remain aware of the struggles your adoptive child might have. And there is always hope with the help of a few tips for traveling this summer….
- Prepare your child. Talk about the trips you will take and some of the activities you will do. Make sure to remind them that you will be together as a family. For example, “This is a trip that our whole family will take.” You can show your child pictures of where you will travel to. And start with some short staycations, a day trip to the lake or a Children’s Museum, just to see you and your child do with being away from home for hours at a time.
- Bring a familiar item from home with you. This could be a stuffed animal, a blanket, or a book. Children benefit from having an item that they feel secure with, and a child who previously lived in an orphanage or in foster care will benefit even more from having an item that anchors them to your home. Just make sure to keep a close eye on this item; maybe even include the item in your head count!
- Start with a short trip. Aim for one or two nights away, at a hotel nearby, before jumping into a week-long adventure at Disney World or Disneyland. This way you can still return home if your child isn’t quite ready to be away from home, and the shortness of a trip close to home will help you learn how your family as a whole does breaking routine.
- Don’t overplan activities. All children and adults get overstimulated, and as a result, meltdowns happen. Expect this, especially with a child who has a history of trauma. Make sure there is plenty of time for transitioning between activities and that you plan for rest time. Even a 45-minute car ride, where your child can (hopefully) sleep will help.
- Use time-ins and other TBRI principles while traveling! Just because you’re away on vacation doesn’t mean that these principles go away. If anything, they will be more important and will remind your child that nothing is changing as far as he or she not remaining with your family and not returning home. There will be meltdowns and overstimulation; time-ins will help you to reconnect with your child and won’t punish them for expressing their emotions.
And remember, at the end of the day, you know your child and your family best. Summer and vacations are a wonderful way to make memories as a family and to experience new places. Enjoy every minute – even the hard ones. You’ve got this!
This article was written by Leslie Knight has a Master of Social Work degree and currently serves as the Director of Social Services for America World's Washington and Oregon offices. She has several years of experience working with state adoption and foster care services as well as serving as the director of a domestic adoption agency. As a personal foster parent graduate of the TBRI-based® HALO project, Leslie brings a unique and in-depth perspective to helping children and families. Leslie is an ACT Team Member with America World, and is glad to answer any questions you have. You can reach her at ACT@awaa.org .
ACT (Adoption Coaching and Training) is a ministry of America World Adoption designed to support families through training, support groups, and individualized coaching. Explore ACT services on our website, and reach out to us today for a free consultation to make a plan to meet your needs.