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  • monettevanlith

Traveling with one child

Recently I took a trip to Rome with my youngest. The initial reasons for this trip were my son’s great interest in the history of the Roman empire, which he studied at school this past year, and his love for the Percy Jackson book series. At first I was hesitant, how would this work, how would we deal with Covid restrictions and protocols in different countries? I was also feeling unsure and lacking some of the confidence I used to have to travel anywhere in the world. The special gift that this request represented was not lost on me however, and after a little research and reflection, I agreed to do it and quickly got very excited about the prospect of a little trip abroad with my 14 year old.

We stayed in a great part of town called Trastevere with lots of cafe’s, restaurants and a hip vibe while also walking distance from all the important sights we wanted to see. We spent 5 days doing touristy types of things and eating in a different restaurant every day. We walked miles and miles, often getting slightly lost but discovering new neighborhoods as a result. The temperature soared above 35 Celcius (95 F) which gave us a good excuse to have some gelato every day.


Standing in line for immigration, back in the US, I reflected on the experience of our trip and what it taught me about parenting and getting to know my child and myself better.


Being away from home, familiar routines, schedules, and a whole new set of situations gave me a glimpse into my own and my child’s lesser known capacities, insecurities, mindset and world view. Of particular interest to me were our thoughts and feelings about new experiences, including some challenging ones, a foreign language and different culture. The trip, I realized, offered a great opportunity to assess resilience, the ability to cope with disappointments and handle situations that were unfamiliar.


To do this assessment I looked at 5 areas of life and wrote down questions for each, based on what I observed during our trip. Then I noted down a few things we are learning and then some goals to take us further in developing skills and capacities in the next six months or so. I’ve listed the 5 areas below with a few questions and examples.


Every child is of course unique and their age and stage of development will determine how to assess what strengths and capacities they already have, and what can be the next goals they can be working towards.


If this sparks some ideas for you, I'd love to hear what types of goals you’re thinking of for your child(ren) in these 5 areas of growth. You can use a simple table and fill in the 5 aspects and note down your own observations and goals.




5 ASPECTS OF LIFE


PHYSICAL WELL-BEING

HOW ARE WE DOING WITH...? --Healthy eating habits and choices? --The ability to keep ourselves and our environment clean and tidy? --Awareness of the importance of physical activity.


WHAT ARE WE LEARNING

--During this trip we had some opportunities to try new foods and ‘break free’ from the familiar and slightly habitual meal choices. --Living out of a suitcase can teach us a thing or two about being tidy and clean! --Walking everywhere and being on our feet while visiting museums and historical sights helped us to notice our level of fitness and endurance

GOALS --Try new foods more frequently (maybe pick a different restaurant if we go out) --Encourage picking a meal and cooking for the family (this is not about me!) --A more systematic plan for exercising (this is about me!) --Introduce a new dish every week. --Work alongside your child to tidy up --Teach doing the laundry --Teach sorting the laundry




INTELLECTUAL CAPACITIES (beyond school) HOW ARE WE DOING WITH...?

--Books we’d like our children to read? --Asking questions and being curious about how things work? How can we encourage them to continue to be curious and have an inquiring mind? --Developing understanding of concepts such as justice, history and social questions? --Appreciate and understand different art forms?


WHAT ARE WE LEARNING

--Books provide a great way to explore new places and ideas and learn about history and different countries and cultures --Reading about a place and then visiting it doubles the impact and joy --Traveling to a new place often gives us a new perspective on how people live, how a society is organized, and invites questions and exploration --Kids go through phases where they ask lots of questions and then at some point this seems to die down --Explore scientific discoveries and new forms of art

GOALS --Keep a list of books handy to choose from when at the library --Look for signs of curiosity and follow it with more questions and offer resources to figure things out --Discuss what's in the news in age-appropriate ways and look for opportunities to weave in concepts related to social justice and environmental issues --Find out what is being studied at school and go deeper into the topic (and plan a trip or get more resources to learn more) --Visit museums and galleries frequently and regularly




OUR RELATIONSHIPS WITH EACH OTHER AND THOSE AROUND US


HOW ARE WE DOING WITH...?

--Having patience in new situations, with ourselves and each other? --Being accepting of different ways in which things can be done? --Having an open mind and appreciation for different cultures and diversity?


WHAT ARE WE LEARNING

--Travel can test us quite a bit and it's a great way to strengthen our capacity to be patient and flexible --When we step away from the familiar we can develop a broader perspective on life --Travel allows us to encounter the richness and beauty of humanity GOALS --Conversations on these kinds of topics are ongoing. It takes a bit of tuning-in to find moments to explore them further when an opportunity arises --Shop at stores that are in different neighborhoods --Watch foreign movies to learn about different cultures




EMOTIONAL STATE AND MENTAL HEALTH

HOW ARE WE DOING WITH...? --Feeling generally positive about themselves most of the time? --Are kind to themselves during tough times or when disappointed? --Developing the capacity to recognize and manage difficult emotions?


WHAT ARE WE LEARNING

--So much of recognizing and managing our emotions happens later in life --What can we do to help children become (more) aware of and comfortable with the full range of emotions?


GOALS

--Talk about emotions regularly and not only when they flare up or are super intense --Help children name the emotions they are feeling and expressing --Describe your own emotions and how you’re dealing with them, when appropriate




OUR ABILITY TO BE MINDFUL & GRATEFUL


HOW ARE WE DOING WITH...?

--Empathy and being concerned with the well-being of others? --Having a sense of awe and spiritual awareness? --Being able to appreciate beauty and nature? --Knowing how and when to slow down? --Developing the ability to practice mindfulness and meditation?


WHAT ARE WE LEARNING

--It's never too early to start this and in fact, it seems the earlier they learn to practice mindfulness, the sooner it can become second nature --Meditation can be very helpful to bring calm and find the inner strength to deal with life’s ups and downs


GOALS

Things we can do to develop capacity in this area: --Keeping a journal --Taking a moment at the end of each day to reflect on what we can be grateful for --Practice meditation or mindfulness by starting with a few minutes each day and gradually increasing it over time




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