Photo source: Flickr - Andrew Malone
Jet lag. It is the one thing we all dread when we travel across time zones. If you loathe the idea of it, just think how much more parents with small children must hate it. As adults we can force ourselves back to sleep. Try telling a baby or toddler that it is two in the morning when they think it is 7 a.m. and time to start their day, even after a 15-hour flight to Asia. Not. Going. To. Happen. Little ones have their own internal clocks, which are actually more intuitive than those of adults, but it does take a few days to adjust. Here are some things to keep in mind when you travel with your young kids.
One of the most important things almost every parenting book will tell you is to stick to your baby's routine no matter what. This can be tricky when you are dealing with long flights, but there are definitely ways it can be done. If you arrive around bedtime, pull out the PJs, warm up a little milk if your child takes it, give your little one a warm bath, read a few stories together and snuggle into bed. If no one has slept much on your flight, chances are your baby will pass out pretty quick.
Ah. Blessed sleep. You all went to bed on local time and it looks like you are going to have a great night. Wrong. At about 2 a.m. or whatever feels like an appropriate nap length to your child, your little one will wake up and be ready to face the day, or at least the next few hours. Don't get mad. This is the way your baby is programmed. You have kept them on a very strict schedule for most of his or her short life so far. Don't think just because you hop across an ocean that your baby will magically fit into your new plan.
Get up with your baby. Have something to eat. Let him or her crawl around, play with some toys, or whatever they need to do while you watch them from the floor where you are laying down trying not to pass out. After about an hour or two, do a shorter version of your bedtime routine again. Chances are that kid is exhausted just like you. They just need a little help remembering it. You may need to do this one or two more times before you see the light of day (literally), but know this: the next night will be better.
You just got through your first night in a new time zone with you kid. Take a deep breath. It really does get easier after this. Your child's circadian rhythm is so much more in tune to the cycles of the sun than yours is. The second night may have one wake up period while the first night could have had anywhere from two to eight. Each night will get better, until one night you will wake up and freak out because it is so quiet, peek over at your sleeping baby, and wonder why the heck you are up. Go back to bed. Tomorrow is another wonderful day of exploring with your child.
Jet lag is not the end of the world. There are far too many parents who will not leave their time zone because they are afraid of messing up their child's sleep schedule. Your kids will get over it. You will get over it. The memories you make as you go one hour off your schedule or even 12 hours off your schedule is always worth it. You just have to remember to have patience, breathe and roll with whatever your baby wants to do those first few nights, always gently reminding him or her that it is dark out and time for sleep.
How do you deal with jet lag when traveling with kids?
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