Recognizing the need for adoption tips and help:
It’s adoption month!! In 2018 we were blessed with our oldest daughter via adoption. This was a difficult time for us as we were heavily pregnant with our third, not prepared for adoption, and our daughter had a lot of life experiences to work through. (Check out helpful tips on parenting an adopted child.) We had 3 short months to prep for the baby, learn all of the adoption tips, and figure out how to set systems in place for after the baby was born. One of our favorite adoption tips was created during this time: our color-coding system! Once these systems were set in place we were able to tackle life a lot more graciously and efficiently. Adoption is an amazing blessing and comes with unique challenges; I can’t wait to share some of these fun tips below! Keep in mind, every adoption story is different and every child responds in different ways. These are just ideas that have helped our daughter flourish on trips.
First Road Trip
After the baby was born, we went on our first road trip. Coming home was a disaster. We were unaware and untrained on what were hard situations for her and how to handle them once we hit them. A 12-hour trip morphed into a 16-hour trip because we stopped every hour to handle uncontrollable screaming and crying. For our daughter, the trauma of her past and abandonment was really elevated when we traveled. We FINALLY managed to get home and recognized something would have to change. Here are the adoption tips we put in place and the changes we made to help our daughter cope with the change of schedule and lack of stability on road trips.
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Adoption tip #1: “We come home to our beds”
Our family is a missionary family. This means that it is likely that we will move frequently. Since her adoption, we have lived in 2 states and 3 homes! For any child, this can be a difficult lifestyle, and for an adopted child this can be especially difficult. So we keyed the phrase “we come home to our beds.” Our kids know that home is where our family is, but some children need a more tangible reminder. So, I can’t promise that we will return to a house; it’s just not how our family is. But I can be sure that I keep her bed or bedding the same throughout her childhood years. And so, when we go on road trips, we always know that we will be coming home to our beds.
Calendar/Map (One of my favorite adoption tips for traveling)
This was a suggestion by her counselor and it works well. Before we go on trips I print out a map of where we’re going and a calendar of what we’re doing. Now, if you’re like my family, sometimes we fly by the seat of our pants and know that we are returning sometime before Saturday. That’s ok! I use image prompts since she can’t read yet. On this trip Calendar, I placed a picture of a bed on the latest day that we would get home and simply told her we would be home sometime on that day or before then! On trips that my husband is joining us later by flight, I place a picture of her and her dad on the day that his flight is scheduled. Also, I make sure to laminate the calendar so that it can survive the everyday life of spills and shoes.
You’ll hear me talk about this a lot. It’s because we travel- A LOT. Nights are hard in the car for our daughter. One of my favorite tricks this last time was to hand my kids glow sticks if they woke up in the night. You’ll also hear me say “You’re good. Just listen to the music.” This is because books on tape and music occupy the mind and can be soothing! If I hear any fussing I immediately break out the glow sticks and turn on the music. You can find more of our favorite activities at this link: 10 Greatest Ways To Entertain Kids On Road Trips
Are you good at setting expectations before you leave the car? I am not always, but I try to make it a habit. When we arrive at our destination there’s going to be a lot of exciting things. It’s going to be hard to remember what normal family boundaries/behaviors are.
How I address everyone:
Before we pile out of our car I address the whole crew. “Hey guys, we’re stopping for the restroom! Remember- *insert family rules* (example: Remember guys, we keep our hands to ourselves and stay with your buddy!) Once everyone is out, I grab her hands and get down to her level to look her in the eye. “We’re going to have so much fun. Make sure you stick with your buddy and keep your eyes on mama.” This starts everyone off on a positive foot and is a reminder to stay focused so that you can start the next leg of your journey on a positive note. Keep in mind – children don’t always cooperate. That’s okay! Roll with the punches!
Diet is a huge factor on a trip. Often, suddenly, your days are filled with sugar, little protein, and little sleep. We try to minimize the shock of this by keeping their water bottles filled, and keeping healthy snacks in the car. Often when we stop at gas stations we will pick up fruit, bananas, and cheese for a road trip snack! Keep in mind, our car snacks last us there, on the trip, and back so we buy in bulk and reserve half in the trunk. (This doesn’t always happen, but it’s our goal!) Also, our car snacks have to be dairy-free.
Here is a list of favorite snacks that we keep around:
No matter where my kids are they are still color-coded. When everyone is running on little sleep it can be easy to snap over something silly. We keep color-coded water bottles in the car, we keep color-coded water cups in the kitchen of the house we’re staying at, and everyone’s clothes, undies, and socks are kept in gallon-sized bags for easy access for the kids. I pack minimally and all in 1 suitcase so everyone’s undies and socks are split in gallon-sized bags with a sharped name or colored circle. If it’s time for shoes, they know to grab their own little bag and find socks.
You can find more details on our color-coding process here:
Sometimes you need to regroup. At times it’s with a parent and other times it’s alone. On our last trip, there was a handful of times that my daughter needed a break from life so that she could keep going and participating in all of the activities without getting into trouble. I grabbed her car clipboard and a few fidgety toys from our stash and let her regroup herself for an hour. She was able to come back in and join activities without getting herself in trouble. Try to catch the moment before it happens so that you are regrouping rather than disciplining.
That’s a wrap on our best adoption tips for traveling!
And that’s it! Breathe mama- you got this! These changes have really helped our road trips be smooth. Our last road trip was wonderful and we have very few difficult moments to navigate through. Everyone had a blast and the drive home was easy! -Aside from the 20+ hour part. Luckily, I have a superhero husband that managed to drive it completely by himself. That made my job easy!