By Helen Wills for Space in Your Case
At Space In Your Case we’re firmly committed to travelling anywhere we can with our children. After all, what would be the point of a family travel site where the editors didn’t travel, or restricted their trips to just one country? Makes no sense, right? So we were intrigued today by the Telegraph’s headline: “The science behind why you should never take your children on foreign holidays.” Bold statement, we thought, let’s read that and see what this science really says; that’s going to be fascinating.
The basis for the piece is a quote by child psychologist Oliver James, who says:
“Home-based holidays are what children really want. A familiar, recurring holiday spot can sometimes be the only anchored thing in a child’s life – a safe and predictable place in a shifting universe.”
WHY FOREIGN HOLIDAYS ARE PERFECT FOR KIDS
Now we’re big fans of Dr Oliver – usually. He has talked previously of travel being an essential part of family life, an experience that allows a family to create memories and feel stronger as a unit. Sign us up to that. But on the matter of travel abroad we wholeheartedly disagree. And so, it would seem, do most of the families who have experienced a foreign holiday.
“I felt that [the article] was written about what worked best for the author and family and not from a wider angle. Whilst going to the same place every year might work for some, it’s a nightmare scenario for others (me!). I want to get out and see as much of the world with my family as possible.” Emma, A Bavarian Sojourn.
Monika, from Mum on the Brink, feels just as strongly.
“The psychologist says that young ones won’t be able to appreciate the sight and smells of Morocco. Absolutely true, they won’t appreciate it as an adult or even a rebellious teen, who’ll probably hate it if it’s their first trip abroad. A young child will soak it it up with all their senses. They will immerse in the experience more than any adult can and it will rewire their brain to accept this new as something not dangerous. Through travel with young children we help broaden our children’s perspectives.
Sure, returning to familiar places is fantastic, but only if you stop helicopter parenting and let the child explore further and further as the years go, independently. We do a mix of exotic new destinations and returning to old haunts. The new destinations give us an opportunity to discover together; the old haunts have the kids excited because they know what they want to do and where they can push the boundaries. In our case this year, they’ll be allowed to go anywhere on the large campsite on their own.”
At Space In Your Case, we’ve pushed the boundaries with our kids, just as much as we’ve stuck to tried and tested holidays, and all of us agree that whilst returning year on year to the same campsite, or cottage holds some comforts that we all appreciate – not just the kids! – exploring new horizons is just as exciting for every age. Helen’s kids love Center Parcs, and will settle in as quickly as you can say ‘mine’s a slushie,’ but each foreign trip has awakened a bigger hunger for travel, and that’s exciting, she says. Whether it’s Christmas in New York, or a lazy week in Barbados, she says the everyone’s lives are all the richer for their foreign travels. Helen’s 12 year old daughter is firmly committed now to a career in the Big Apple, having fallen in love with the pace of life there. And if her younger son has anywhere he’d like to revisit, it’s the beaches and seafood of the Caribbean.
“When we travel abroad it can definitely feel more stressful from time to time, but the children are usually the ones pushing to go somewhere new.”
WHERE’S THE SCIENCE?
Cerys wants to know where the science is behind the article:
“Any early childhood specialist will tell you that children want to explore and learn about the world but surrounded by comfort and familiarity. What better way to achieve this than exploring the world with the most important figures in their lives – their parents and even grandparents. For children to understand more about life outside of their bubble they need to experience it and with more than just a book or from tv programmes.
Even a new holiday can be familiar – if you stay in a tent every year then swap the location but keep the same tent, a villa holiday – do a villa but in a different country. If you ski, try a different resort but stick within the same area.
I believe that a lot of the time it’s not the children that feel that but the parents that are stressed about the unfamiliar and that leaves lasting impressions. It is certainly easier to return to the same area each year especially with young children. But facing your fears and journeying beyond your comfort zone is showing children how to be resilient and taking risks is ok too.”
We say hear hear. Of course familiarity feels comfortable, and there’s a place for that. But from the scientist who told us that families are brought together more closely by travel experiences, we can’t help feeling that this stance is a half measure to family happiness. Rebecca Ann agrees, and says that by taking kids out of their safe and easy spaces you’re doing them a huge favour:
“Surely showing your children how to step out of the comfort zone and try new things is part of parenting. Life is full of changes, often unexpected ones, and preparing my children for that is a big part of my role. That being said for many reasons we haven’t taken the girls too far as yet but I definitely hope to. As far and as frequently as time and finances allow. To travel is to live after all.”