Everyone will tell you how hard it is to travel with your kids – they whine, they don’t appreciate half the crap you do, and you have to lug eight million things to keep them fed and happy and sleeping. But no one ever talks about the reasons why dealing with every downside is totally worth it.
So today, we’re going to do just that.
First off, let’s get this out of the way: traveling with your kids is not, nor should it be called, a vacation. It’s a trip, and hopefully one that will have more good memories attached to it than bad ones. But mom and dad, you’re not going to be putting your feet up.
That said, you will have lasting memories, one way or another. Not only that, but the solid togetherness provides opportunities to connect with your kids in ways that can be hard to find between cooking dinner, running to soccer practice, and making sure everyone has clean socks for school and work.
And if you want a “big picture” reason, psychologists agree that experiencing cultures other than their own turns kids into kinder, more compassionate, and empathetic human beings.
“Engaging with another culture helps kids recognize that their own egocentric way of looking at the world is not the only way of being in the world,” explains Columbia Business School professor Adam Galinsky.
Traveling can also build confidence and encourage your kids to be comfortable in situations that are outside their normal diversity bubble. Considering that 54% of us live near the place where we grew up, there’s a good chance you and your children could use a reminder that not everyone is as lucky as we are – or that not everyone is like us.
If you’re reading this and thinking “sure, it would be great to be able to introduce my kids to different languages and cultures and countries, but I can’t afford it,” don’t worry. There are ways to “travel” close to home and provide your family with the same or similar benefits.
You can get your kids involved in community organizations that serve people from a different demographic than your own. Additionally, you can all take a Sunday off from your regular religious service to go and experience another. There are several organizations that encourage gifts and letter writing between American children and those from far-flung, less affluent places.
Which is to say, our “bubbles” aren’t only physical, so if funds are tight, you can be mindful of encouraging your family to step outside in other ways.
Make sure to talk to your kids about what you’re experiencing as you walk through it together – they may not remember the trip when they’re older, but the way they felt, the time they spent with you, and the lessons they learned will never be far from their minds.