I read an article today. It’s here if you want to read it…. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/family-holidays/why-you-should-never-take-children-on-foreign-holidays/
It’s an article I utterly disagree with and I’ve gotten in touch with the author to write a ‘follow up’ which I will certainly do if I hear back from her.
Firstly, there is absolutely NO science in this ‘research’. This is one man basing his opinion on one family (his own) and telling the rest of the world that HIS way is the right way. He’s wrong. He doesn’t know my family and he doesn’t know yours.
There are little things…. J (for instance) wouldn’t touch ice cream anywhere in the world. Nor does he want to sit on a donkey repeatedly. To be fair, he’d probably like the cold beach… but he wouldn’t sit there ‘stoically’…. J doesn’t do sitting still…. he’d be running like the wind! Enjoying the moment for what it is!
And there are big things. For J (and I suspect, for many children) travel is liberating. Travelling frees him from the constraints of possessions. He is (as many children are) very attached to his toys and cares for them with amazing attention to detail. but they are an emotional stress for him. He has to keep them all safe. If he loses one or if it gets damaged, it concerns him deeply. Travelling also frees him from his expectations.
When J has done something, he expects – needs – it to happen the same way every time. Here’s an example…. if he went to a soft play area, and he met two boys – let’s call them John and Peter – and he had fun with them… He would be happy…. If he went to the same soft play area the next day, he would ABSOLUTELY expect John and Peter to be there. He would search for them. He would not be able to understand that they weren’t there. He would be upset. I would be at a loss as to how to explain it. We would both leave emotionally drained.
That doesn’t happen when we travel. When we travel, when we are somewhere new, J doesn’t have an expectation of what’s going to happen. And he’s therefore open to new experiences.
I’ve learned – from that first adventure completing Lands End to John O’Groats – that I can connect with J through travelling. He’ll study the map (his sense of direction is better than my compass!), he’ll engage in conversation about where we should go, he’ll pack (and carry) his own backpack. I cannot even begin to describe what this does for a child’s confidence and independence.
And the benefits for G are not to be ignored either. When J’s anxiety is reduced, because he’s not trying to predict and control what happens, she gets to shine. She, most usually, picks the craft or art experience we do (we try to do one every time we travel) and there is simply no way that would happen when J is in a ‘usual’ environment.
I use the word a lot, but travelling is liberating. For J, for G and for me. It works. And I won’t listen to anyone who tells me I shouldn’t do it.
Travelling has enhanced my relationship with my children…. Both J and G trust me. That’s a big thing for any child, but especially for one who has sensory issues and who has a desire to control his surroundings. They trust me to sort things, they trust me to listen to them, they trust me to respect their opinions… We might be headed to Asia or Africa, but they know I’ve got a plan. I’ve sorted food (Food remains a huge issue for J)… and they are also learning to trust themselves, that’s it’s OK to have an opinion or demand respect. They may not remember every little thing (but then, there is no law about going back and doing it again!) but they know they did it. There is a confidence and a self esteem that says ‘I can do this’ that no doggedly-repeated-holiday in Cornwall will ever provide.
And so to bucket lists…. We have one and I believe everyone should.
We write our bucket list together. Every time we tick something off, something else goes on the list. And nothing is off limits. Our rules are these:
- You can add anything you want to do.
- You can add something you’ve done before if it’s something you want to do again.
- You can remove something from the list if you change your mind.
And that’s my point. A bucket list isn’t a one-shot-do-it-as-fast-as-you-can list…. It’s a guide. It’s a guide that reminds you, every day, that time is passing. And time is precious. It’s really, bloody precious.
It doesn’t matter what is on your bucket list. If what you really want to do is go to the same beach in Cornwall, eat the same ice cream and sit on the same donkey… then DO IT!! Put it back on your list the minute you cross it off… But do it because you want to, and because it works for you family… Not because someone told you to. One of ours was to take the Transporter bridge… Possibly not on anyone else’s list ever… but it’s what we wanted to do.
But what you shouldn’t do is do nothing. And that’s where a bucket list really helps. It gets your kids talking, thinking about the world, exploring their own minds… what WOULD they do if they could do anything? The most disempowering thing in the world is to hear that you can’t do something… so listen to them! Listen to what they CAN do and what they WANT to do…
And do it now.