Expert Advice: How to avoid tantrums while traveling
About the Interviewee: Mikaela DeMartini
Mikaela is from the San Francisco Bay Area. She was raised in a large Italian family and has twenty first cousins. Mikaela graduated with honors from Sonoma State University with a Bachelors of Arts Degree in Early Childhood Studies. She currently work as a Preschool Teacher and is pursuing her career in getting her Masters in Education. Mikaela has always had a passion for working with children since she was a young girl.
What is your background with children?
I have been working with children as a babysitter, nanny, volunteer, and Lead Preschool Teachers for over ten years. I truly enjoy being surrounded by children of all ages, but specifically I am educated about the development of children ranging from infancy to eight years old. Once you work with a child individually and build a relationship with them, you can see their interests and cultural dynamics. Working with children is a very rewarding job. I truly believe childhood is such a unique and valuable stage in the human life cycle.
Where is your current position as a pre-school teacher?
I am a Lead Preschool Teacher at Tamalpais Preschool, Mill Valley - Greater San Francisco, U.S.A.
Do you work with children who speak different languages, and/or have various cultural backgrounds?
Yes, all children come from various cultural backgrounds. I have worked with children who speak different languages including; Spanish, Italian, Swedish, and Chinese.
What are your top recommendations for a parent who experience a toddler tantrum on an airplane or other mode of transportation when traveling?
Parents and family dynamics of a child can greatly influence a toddlers future behaviors. Toddlers need to have the support and confidence from their family to grow and learn. Throughout my upbringing, I have learned that you cannot have clear cut expectations for a child because of their age or developmental milestones. With that being said, no one enjoys a temper tantrum whether you are the parent dealing with the child or the individual hearing the child’s outburst. Here are some recommendations to eliminate the temper tantrum in a public setting.
I like to use three key words to address a temper tantrum; acknowledge, react, and solve.
Acknowledge that the child is unhappy. Show compassion for the child and provide a supportive care towards the issue by responding in a calm tone. Children feed off your energy and react according to your behavior. Now, I know, easier said than done while you are in the security line with five bags to carry and a screaming toddler. But the good news is when you are in that situation, stooping down to their level and acknowledging their upset is one of the most reassuring ways for a child to calm down.
React. When a child sees their parents reaction to their tantrum, they immediately feel a sense of security because they know they are being heard. Adults who respond with sensitivity, meanwhile maintaining a consistent tone, can help a toddler identify and name their feelings. By labeling their feelings such as; angry, happy, and sad, parents are more likely to have their child redirected because the focus has shifted.
By acknowledging the child's feelings, helping them identify the way they feel, the problem will be Solved. Most often children react in such a manner because they don't feel in control. As the parent, by showing you are in control reassures the child and coaches them through their temper tantrum. After going through the three key steps to solving a toddler temper tantrum, soon enough, you will be on the plane, train, boat or bus to your destination and you will not have the label of “ the parent who can't control their child having the temper tantrum.”
What can a parent do to reduce the chance of having a potential tantrum?
Often temper tantrums occur when a child is trying to communicate something to a parent but does not have the necessary words to get their point across. Communicating to the children and preparing them days in advance before the trip takes place, will make the transition to going on a trip much smoother. The best way a parent can reduce a potential temper tantrums is to offer control, maintain a routine/schedule, and make the traveling experience fun. Children love to feel empowered and independent. When you offer control, give the child a task where they can complete it on their own. For example; helping take part in the packing before the trip or when you are at the airport, letting them take off their shoes for the security line. Although, I know it can be hard to travel and maintain the same routine at home, it is important to keep the children on the same eating and napping schedule as best as possible. Lastly, making the trip playful is the ultimate priority. Giving children resources and tasks to do in a positive way, will make your trip less stressful and enjoyable not only for you as the parent but for the children too because they feed off your energy.
How to best talk to the child post tantrum? Is it recommended to discuss what happened during route to final destination or wait until one arrives?
Throughout my experience and education on temper tantrums, from a developmental standpoint, you are talking to the child through the whole temper tantrum process. Once you are at part three: Solve, you are essentially coming up with positive ways to resolve and discuss what happened so that in the future it does not happen again. Unfortunately, chances are it will happen again but not necessarily in the same context. Toddlers are growing, and they learn through positive relationships with adults and children. There is no need to bring up the incident again.
What do you like to do on your spare time?
In my spare time when I am not traveling, I enjoy a lot of outdoor activities including; running, hiking, snowboarding, surfing, wake boarding, and paddle boarding. I love to do yoga and Pilates. I have a passion for helping children, especially those in need, I like to volunteer in the Pediatric Department of hospitals.
Your top favorite travel destination with kids and why?
My top favorite travel destination with kids would be Europe. Although my family is from Northern Italy, I would not specify a certain country. I believe Europe as a whole umbrella for traveling to various places can be such a wonderful experience for children.
I believe every child comes from a different developmental niche which does not make them any more or less valued than any other individual in society. Supporting and acknowledging peoples differences makes a more balanced community. According to a Child Developmental Theorist, Jean Piaget, the environment is seen as the third teacher. I believe that in early childhood, children should be exposed to different countries and cultures, allowing them to have more opportunities and become more well-rounded individuals after being in a diverse learning environment.