How to Travel with a Child with ADHD

Three Parts:Preparing the Child for TravelKeeping the Child Occupied During TravelAddressing Any Issues During the Trip

Traveling with a child with ADHD can be a challenge, especially if the child will be limited to the backseat of a car or the seat of an airplane. You can make travel easier for a child with ADHD as well as for you and your fellow travellers, by taking certain steps to prepare the child for travel. You should then make sure you keep the child occupied while traveling and address any issues during the trip with calmness and grace.

Part 1
Preparing the Child for Travel

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    Tell the child where they are going and why. Children with ADHD can be overwhelmed by sudden changes or shifts in their routine. To prepare the child for the trip, you should let them know where they are going and why they are traveling. You may sit down with them and have a discussion about where they are going to stay and who they are going to visit. This way, they are aware of what is going to happen.[1]
    • For example, you may tell the child, “We are going to visit Aunt Bev in Florida for one week. We are going to stay with Aunt Bev in her house in Tampa. While we’re in Tampa, we’re going to drive to Disney World for a few days and have fun as a family.”
  2. 2
    Ask them for input on the trip. You should include the child in the trip planning so they can feel useful and part of the experience. You may ask them what they think about the plan for the trip and if they would like to see anything specific on the trip. Discuss their ideas and try to put one or two of them in the schedule so they feel included.[2]
    • For example, the child may ask if they can go visit a particular location or eat a particular food on the trip. You may then agree to work this activity into the schedule of the trip.
    • You may also present the child with several options that they can then choose from. For example, you may tell the child that on one day during the trip, they can try rafting or kayaking. You may then ask the child which one they would prefer to do so they feel they have options.
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    Rehearse calming techniques with the child. You should also prepare the child by practicing calming techniques together in the weeks leading up to the trip. You may do deep breathing exercises together or have a calming session before bed where you do a few relaxing yoga moves.[3]
    • You may also encourage your child to use verbal cues to stay calm and relax in new environments. For example, you may teach your child to say “I am calm” or “Relax” when they start to feel overwhelmed or frustrated.
  4. 4
    Pack the child's medication. If the child with ADHD takes medication for their condition, you should make sure their medication is packed for the trip. You may also get prescriptions for their medication from their doctor so you have it on hand when you are traveling. This will make it easier for you to get the medication when needed during the trip.
    • You should make sure you have enough medication to last the entire duration of the trip. You may use a pill container that is labeled by day and count out the child's medication so they have enough for each day of the trip.

Part 2
Keeping the Child Occupied During Travel

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    Bring interactive toys and games. Children with ADHD can find spending too much down time in a car or a plane frustrating and limiting. You can keep the child occupied by bringing interactive toys and games with you and giving them to the child to play with. This can ensure the child is not idle or feels bored during travel.[4]
    • You may bring interactive games like puzzles, card games, or maze games. You can also pack interactive plush toys and toys that require the child to use their hands, such as silly putty or gel packs.
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    Remind the child of the rules and guidelines for travel. You can keep the child on track during travel by reminding them of the rules and guidelines for travel. Do this by gently reminding them to stay calm or focus on their toys if they start to get distracted or agitated. You can also outline the guidelines for traveling if the child starts to get upset.[5]
    • For example, if the child starts to get annoyed or bored, you may say, “Focus on this game” or “Let’s play with this puzzle.”
    • You can also remind the child of the guidelines for travel by asking, “Is that how we play in the back seat?” or “How do we spend time on the airplane?”
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    Let others know about the child’s needs. Do not be ashamed or shy about the child’s needs, especially if you know that with a few small adjustments, the child will be well behaved. Be willing to ask for help from others and get the child the help the need when you are traveling. This could make traveling with the child is less stressful.[6]
    • If you are traveling by plane, you may pull a flight attendant aside and let them know the child is ADHD and needs some extra attention. Some airlines have policies where they give a child with ADHD small jobs on the plane to help them stay occupied during the flight.[7]
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    Accept help, when offered. Though you may feel you need to do everything yourself for the child when traveling, you should be willing to accept help when it is offered. Taking on the responsibility of the child can be a lot for one person and sometimes you need help. You should accept help from your partner, other family members, or even friendly strangers when you need it so you do not burnout or get too frustrated with the child.[8]
    • For example, you may accept the help of a friendly stranger sitting next to you and the child on the plane. Or you may ask your partner to assist you with keep the child calm and relaxed when traveling.

Part 3
Addressing Any Issues During the Trip

  1. 1
    Establish a routine once you arrive. Try to integrate routines into the child’s day right away so they feel more comfortable in their new environment. Put routines in place so the child can ease into being on a trip.[9]
    • For example, you may prepare breakfast for the child in the morning at the same time every day. Or you may set aside some relaxation time once a day so the child has time to chill out and focus on a relaxing activity.
    • You should also have a routine for giving the child their medication. Try to give the child their medication at the same time or times as you would when you are at home. Keep the medication time consistent every day so the child feels comfortable and gets the medication they need.
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    Do calming exercises if the child acts up. If the child starts to act up on the trip, you should encourage them to do calming exercises. This will help them control their emotions better and be less anxious when they are away from home. You may do the calming exercises with them to support them.[10]
    • For example, if the child starts to get upset in the morning, you may sit together and do deep breathing exercises. Or if the child gets distracted or bored while on a planned outing, you may do a few fun yoga moves together to get them to focus and pay attention.
  3. 3
    Praise the child when they are well behaved. You should always reinforce positive behavior in the child using praise, especially when they are out of their element and in a new environment. Use verbal praise to let the child know they are behaving well, such as “Good job!” or “You’ve been really great today.”[11]
    • You can also reward the child with a special outing on the trip or a satisfying snack to show them that you appreciate their good behavior.

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Categories: Attention and Developmental Disorders | Travel