How Important Are Familiarity, Routine & Consistency For Nomadic Babies & Children?
Are we doing the right thing? Will the travel and disruption of uprooting our little one every few months be upsetting or bad for them? Will they feel unsettled and insecure all the time?
Those were (and still are) some of the key questions we ask ourselves regularly as we trot around the globe with our 6 month old. We’re not nomadic for the sake of it, the purpose of our travels is to find 2-3 places in the world that we can call “home” and shuttle between as and when we feel like it. But until then, we’re very much nomadic, homeless hobos!
As many of you have pointed out in the comments of other posts, travel with a baby is relatively simple versus travel with toddlers and younger children who are more mobile, demanding and able to throw major tantrums…but travel and a peripatetic lifestyle can be unsettling, whatever the age of your child.
When faced with unfamiliar strange faces, languages and surroundings, babies and children usually have a couple of tactics to cope with this – they either switch off or play up but there are ways you can help to ease the transition for them.
I’m pretty sure that finding ways to ensure some familiarity for babies and children as you move around helps them feel less at sea whenever you move; it can be as simple as carrying a few favourite toys and books with you to regular visits to Starbucks – you might scoff at that last suggestion but I can honestly say that the fact Mali has been used to going to Starbucks with us from the age of a few weeks old, means that whenever we head to a Starbucks anywhere else in the world, it’s familiar for her.
I’m sure most parenting manuals advocate the establishment of routines and this becomes even more important when you’re crossing time zones, messing up their circadian rhythms (sleep patterns) and turning their worlds upside down.
The bed time routine we use for Mali means that wherever we are in the world, she knows when it’s time to sleep (or at least try to!). It worked brilliantly for us when we left the UK and headed to Dubai and then again when we moved on to Thailand – a time zone difference of 3 hours to begin with and then 7 (from the UK). Jet lag was almost non-existent and within a couple of days, she’d returned to her normal sleeping patterns. It’s not so much specific times that you want to stick to but activities and the order of those activities.
Another one from the parenting manuals I suspect (I’ve never read any!), consistency is also important when leading a nomadic lifestyle with your children. We’ve had to be conscious of maintaining a consistent way of handling certain situations (e.g. when Mali wakes up at night crying) while travelling but at the same time being conscious of the fact that the travel could be unsettling and causing the problem.
It’s a fine balance to strike between being consistent in your parenting approach but also being aware that the nomadic lifestyle may require you to be more sensitive to your child’s needs at times – and responding differently, as and when needed.
As ever, we all have different parenting approaches, so I’d love to know how you ease the stress that transition, travel and unfamiliarity can cause for your children…how important do you feel that consistency, routine and familiarity are and how do you maintain them?
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