Getting the Most out of Traveling Abroad with Your Children

You want your children to be up to the challenges of a global economy and the complexities and strengths of increasingly diverse communities and workplaces.   To help your children accomplish these goals, you may travel abroad with your children, exposing them to other cultures, languages, architecture, wildlife, foliage, and history, to name a few.  Here are a few tips to help you prepare your children to get the most out of traveling abroad.

Read as much as you reasonably can about your destination before you go.  Discuss the destination’s points of interest and seasonal celebrations and how they may tie into your children’s interests.  Expand your children’s interests by highlighting some of the destination’s points of interest and celebrations and why they are especially noteworthy.  Encourage your children to research the destination as well:  what do they want to see and do while in that country?

Prepare evening meals that are traditional fare for your destination.  For example, if you are going to Greece, serve gyros, souvlaki, or moussaka, with baklava for dessert.  In the alternative, you may find it easier to dine at Greek restaurants in your home community.

Research the destination’s history and governance and discuss with your children.  How many countries was it before it was the country that it is today?  (For example, Iran used to be Persia.)  What peoples populated the country in prior centuries?  What did they do for a living in prior centuries?  What were their lives like?  What significant events shaped the history of those peoples?  Are there lots of ruins or archeological sites in the destination?  If so, what stories do they tell of the history of the peoples of that locale?  What forms of governance has the country and its predecessor country/ies had?  What are the advantages and disadvantages of each form of governance?  When the forms of governance changed (i.e., from monarchy to democracy), what social and economic changes resulted in the short and long term?  What caused the change in governance?  How do your children think the citizenry felt about the change?  How did it affect their lives?

Research the destination’s traditional dress, customs, and social norms.  Discuss what you esteem in the traditional dress, such as the ornate stitching, the usual colors of the apparel, the fabric as it is suited to the climate of the destination, etc.  Ask your children what they like about the destination’s traditional dress.  Learn the customs and social norms so as not to offend the local population in your destination.  For example, is eye contact a sign of trustworthiness, a challenge to one’s relative social standing, or an act of anger or aggression?

Research the destination’s traditional architecture.  Discuss what you esteem in the architecture.  For example, if you are going to Russia, do you like the “onion top” buildings?  Why is that particular type of architecture used in that area?  What is the history of that architecture?

Research the unique flora, fauna, climate, and geography of the destination and discuss these with your children.  What plants and animals live in the destination that are not found in your home country or state?  What makes those plants and animals well adapted to the environment of the destination?  What is the destination’s climate?  What makes the climate what it is?  Is it close to the equator?  What is it’s elevation about sea level?  How close it is to a large body of water?  Is the area mountainous?  Are there earthquakes from shifting tectonic plates?  Are there volcanoes?  How do volcanoes work?  What is a super-volcano?

Learn enough of the destination’s language that you and your family can communicate some basics in the native tongue.  Basics include the following.  Hello.  Please?  Thank you.  Excuse me.  Goodbye.  Where is __tourist attraction__?  Where is the nearest public bathroom?  Where can I find a police officer?  My name is _________.  My parents are __names__.   I am lost.  We are staying at __hotel__.

Watch movies made in or about the destination.  For example, are you going to France?  Try watching, as age appropriate, “Chocolat”, “French Kiss”, “Forget Paris”, “Sabrina”, “Interview with a Vampire”, “European Vacation”, “Phantom of the Opera”, “Before Sunset”, “The Illusionist”, “La Belle et la Bete”, “The Red Balloon”, and any of the “Pink Panther” series.

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