What do you Mean we are Leaving Now?

Dr. Carla LeHouillier, R. Psych.
Wishing Star Associate

The other night at a dinner party, a friend was telling me a story of a fond memory from her childhood. She described how her parents picked her up from elementary school, and stated that they were heading to McDonald’s. Excitement overflowed, as she was not allowed to eat McDonald’s very often. Then, in the next minute, they said, “actually we’re not going to McDonald’s, we’re going to Disneyland!!” The bags were packed in the trunk, and they were on their way to the airport. My friend described her disbelief and then her absolute excitement at the upcoming trip. While listening to this story with joy for my friend’s fond memory, it occurred to me: not all children, myself included, would react with pure excitement at the prospect of a trip with no warning. Many kids I work with have a sudden surge of anxiety at the thought of the unknown, and the ‘what ifs’ and ‘what’s going to happen’ may abound. What if you didn’t pack everything I need? What will we be doing each day? What if I’m scared of a ride? For children who like predictability, structure and routine, a vacation with no preparation or schedule can be very challenging for them, as they are filled with unknowns. If this sounds like your child, there are some things you can do to make the trip a little more pleasant for everyone. Parents can help by providing some lead time prior to having to hop on the plane or get in the car, with details about what’s needed to pack and when you’re scheduled to leave. Providing information about what to expect, the activities that are planned and having some structure or consistency during the trip can all also make things go more smoothly. For example, you may want to have dinner at roughly the same time each day, or have a routine around what activities to participate in. And always remember that your little ones are not choosing to be anxious about the experience – a little empathy can go a long way!!

This blog posting is not a form of psychological counselling, advice, therapy, or assessment and should not be used as such by any individual. This blog posting is provided only as an article intended to encourage thought and discourse. For specific psychology related services, please contact an appropriate healthcare provider.