Dealing with jet lag in kids
– Melanie Grosjean from Travel-Wise
If you wish to see the world, jet lag is one of those unavoidable realities. It can be bad enough to get rid of jet lag by yourself, but when you add a baby or small child to the mix, the fun really begins.
I’ve certainly spent many early morning hours rocking a jet-lagged baby or playing with a toddler who is completely awake when I’m beyond sleep deprived. The reality is that only time will cure jet lag for kids — but with a few tips, you can make the transition from one time zone to another a bit easier to bear.
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Enjoy the Sunshine
One of the things I’ve found to be most effective in helping our toddler get over jet lag is getting her outdoors during the daytime. Spending time in the sun seems to help their little bodies understand it’s daytime and get them acclimated to the new time zone.
Once the sun is up, get out and enjoy the day as much as possible. Spending time outdoors usually helps my daughter be in a better mood as well which can be difficult when you are getting over jet lag.
If the weather or season at your destination does not permit you to spend much time outdoors, you can at least spend the daytime in a sunny part of the house with the curtains open. If you have a young baby, letting them play in a sunny place (with sun protection of course) will help them re-learn when they should be waking and sleeping.
Take it Slow
Traveling with kids means taking it slower anyway, but when you are jet lagged, you have to step this up a notch. Planning a couple of days to recover at your destination after a long flight will certainly pay off in the end.
It’s great to get them out and do a few activities during the day, especially to let them soak in some sunshine. However, don’t overdo it.
Plan a few low-key activities and don’t set your expectations too high. Everyone will be running on fumes and your kids are less likely to be able to keep their cool.
Sleep When the Kids Sleep
When your kids take a nap or go down for the night, you should certainly take the opportunity to also get some rest. Even though it can be tempting to use that time to get things done, going to bed when your kids do can help guarantee you get just a little sleep before their confused bodies wake up again.
Related Article; Hotel Bedtime Routines
The first few days of jet lag always make me feel like I’m back to those sleep-deprived days of parenting a newborn, but the old sage advice still stands — sleep when they sleep.
Be Consistent with a Schedule
When we are fighting off jet lag with our two-year-old, we let her sleep whenever she wants the first day in our new location. I think of this as a survival period — you are just doing what you have to do to get by.
Once she’s rested a bit, we then start to encourage a schedule. Sticking to meal times, nap times and bedtimes can certainly help with the adjustment.
If you can get into a routine that is similar to your routine at home, then your kids will quickly adjust to the new time zone. The hardest part of this for us is waking up an overtired baby or toddler from a nap, but sometimes that is necessary to keep a nap from turning into a full “night” worth of sleep.
Have a Lot of Patience
While you may have clicked on this article hoping we would have a quick fix for helping your kids get over jet lag, the real answer is time. Your young kids will eventually be back on their normal schedule and back to their typical cheerful, well-behaved selves.
Related Article; What they don’t tell you about traveling with kids
Keep your expectations low and remind yourself to be patient with your kids. The experiences you will have traveling with your kids are more than worth fighting the good fight against jet lag.
Plan for Help at Your Destination
Getting help with jet-legged kids can make all the difference in the world. I know it’s not possible to always have this luxury, but when you can plan for a family member to help you out with jet lag duty, it can be a real lifesaver.
You might even consider hiring a babysitter for a few hours, even if it’s just to help mom and dad get a few hours of sleep.
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