Traveling with children can be stressful at the best of time, but for parents of kids with bipolar disorder, an extended family vacation can be a daunting prospect. Here are some tips to make some great memories:
Consider a shorter stay
If this is your first family vacation, you may want to try day trips, weekend getaways and other short adventures. You’ll soon learn what stressors or triggers to look for with children who live with bipolar disorder. Work your way up from a day to a week away.
Prepare! prepare! prepare!
Longer and more involved trips require a ton of preparation so doing your homework is essential. For example, if you are going to an attraction or theme park, there can be many triggers—crowds, noise sensitivities—that you need to be aware of. Do some research and find out when attendance tends to be lowest. For example, generally, crowds at Disney World are packed during spring break and reading weeks for colleges, but more manageable after the holidays or in early fall.
A road less traveled
If it’s simply not a good idea to vacation at a crowded theme park then opt for something with less stimulation. Go off the beaten path; a peaceful camping trip at a state or national park can be fun, or perhaps rent a cottage at a small private beach. Look at a themed trip that speaks to your child’s interests. If your daughter is passionate about horses, plan a horse-back-riding day camp or spend a day visiting a few museums if your son is a fan of dinosaurs.
Plan out long drives
For most kids, and adults alike, long car rides can be exhausting, but especially for children who have bipolar. Consider the side effects of medications in doing homework about vacations i.e. some meds can make your children thirsty and hungry and then they’ll need restroom and snack breaks more regularly.
There are a few items that top the list of every parent who’s ever survived a trip with children who have bipolar. First is a DVD player, either a portable unit or something already incorporated into the vehicle. Keeping kids occupied and distracted from the actual act of traveling is important. The second is portable video games, and for the same reason as a DVD player. Let your kids pick the movies and make sure you approve of the ‘games’ your child chooses.
Children who live with bipolar disorder are more sensitive when their routines are disrupted or they face new surroundings, sounds and experiences. Even though you will be away from home, as much as possible, try and stick to your usual routine. Try to keep meals and bedtime the same and even bring ‘comfort’ items from home. Obviously, the most vital routine is making sure your child’s medication schedule remains the same. If you have to, set an alarm on your phone or watch if you need a reminder.
A little help
If you’re on your own, it’s a good idea to ask for a little assistance; enlist the help of staff at a theme park or restaurant, for example. Explain that your son or daughter has a brain illness and gets over stimulated and can’t stand in long lines; many places will accommodate moving you to the front of the line. Perhaps you can let people at the front of the line know that your child is prone to melt-downs; generally most people are sympathetic and won’t be upset for you to cut in.
When researching all aspects of your family trip, choose your hotel stays carefully. Most parents will agree that finding lodging that offers other activities is essential; an indoor pool can be a lifesaver for when the weather does not cooperate. Also, if your child generally a very early riser or tends to be loud and possibly disruptive, ask the hotel for a room with no one on either side of you; connecting rooms or a suite is also a very good option.
Every child is unique
Since the symptoms of bipolar disorder are unique to each child, you’ll need to tailor your vacation plans according to your kid’s tendencies. For example, if, during the summer he does better in the morning, find a destination that offers activities at this time of day and then go back to the hotel in the afternoon to wind down. If you know too much stimuli and crowds will most definitely trigger a manic episode, maybe opt for a cottage someone quiet and plan day trips into town.
Expect a few snags
Try not to be too disappointed when things don’t go as planned. Realize that traveling with kids in general (those with bipolar or not), can be challenging so don’t expect perfection. Realize that if you get upset that something didn’t go as planned, this stress will trigger unwanted emotional behavior from your child. Try to be as flexible as possible, go with the flow and infuse some humor into any mishaps.
via bpHope – bp Magazine Community