My husband was supposed to write a guest blog for us this week, but he’s had an unusually busy work schedule. Hopefully, I can get his column next week. In the meanwhile, I wanted to let you know why I’m not worried about my kids’ sleep during our upcoming summer vacation.
My family is gearing up for a vacation at the beach. Granted, this is a pretty easy trip for us. No time zone change, only a short flight. But it’s still a major change. We’re staying in a place we’ve never been before. Our flight schedules will most likely mean naps are out of the question during travel days. My two year old will spend his first week in a “big boy” bed. But still, I’m not too concerned. How is that possible, you ask?
I know it seems counterintuitive, but having a routine enables us to be flexible. Debbie and I tell our clients that while they are sleep training their children to stick strictly to their daily schedule. “But I need to have flexibility…I can’t always live like this,” we often hear in response. While keeping to a routine and enforcing nap time and bedtime at the right times may be onerous for some, having the regularity really does make it easier for kids to adjust when changes occasionally arise. Kids bounce back quickly and fall right back into their routine without anyone losing too much sleep.
So what is my game plan for this vacation? There are a few key issues we will need to handle:
Preparation – I manage my anxiety by planning ahead. I try to think through our days and nights and make sure we will have what we need for our trip. I have also started talking to my kids about the trip to get them excited. Kids also need to prepare for change and giving them time to think about things and ask questions will help alleviate their anxiety, too. Plus, in the days before our vacation, we will stick more strictly to our normal schedule and make sure the kids are well-rested before we leave.
Travel days – our schedule will definitely be off on those days. My two-year old will probably miss his nap. Everyone will be excited for the airplane ride. We are going to do the best we can. We will encourage quiet time around nap time if possible, no matter where we are. If no nap happens, we won’t worry about it and will just plan on putting the kids to bed a bit earlier than usual that night. A very wise friend of mine shared this advice: “Traveling is not the time to teach your kids a lesson.”
New surroundings – I’m hoping that the room we plan to have the kids in can get dark. This is critical for getting them to bed (in the summer it stays light so late) and for helping them nap during the day. If the room doesn’t get dark enough we will jerry-rig some towels over the windows to help. When my daughter was small enough to be in a pack-n-play, she slept in a well-ventilated walk-in closet during one vacation. I’ll have each kid bring a comfort item – my kids each have their “dots blanket” with their name embroidered, and I’ll encourage them to bring a stuffed animal or other small, soft toy. These items from home will make the new surroundings less foreign. We will also place a portable potty in the bedroom so the kids don’t have to wander around during the night looking for a bathroom in a new place.
Big boy bed – this trip will be the first time our son sleeps in a real bed and not a crib or pack-n-play. He’s been itching to sleep in his big sister’s bed, so I think he’ll be very eager to try it out. I will bring waterproof sheets to protect the mattress. When we arrive, we will make sure that the bed is safe so he doesn’t fall out and so I don’t worry during the night. I’m also planning to bring our Traffic Light Alarm Clock (link to blog post) to remind both kids that they need to stay in the room until the right time, when the light on the clock turns green.
Routine – once we arrive at the beach, we will try to revert as closely as possible to our normal routine, with wake, nap, and bedtimes similar to when we are at home. We will develop a vacation rhythm to the day and try to stick with that all week. Kids thrive on regularity and routine, so we aim to give them that security wherever we are.
If our kids are well-rested, they will be happy and well-behaved, and then we will all enjoy our vacation. Wish me luck! I’ll let you know how it all went when we return.
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