The first comes before you even set foot outside your front door. Involve your kids in the planning of the trip. Ask them where they'd like to go, if you have that option. Tell your child it's up to them to decide what they need to bring along. Have them pack their own bags, and decide which toys to bring along (from among the practical options). If you're planning on bringing books on tape for a long drive, take the children to the library and let them pick-out one or two of the selections. In an earlier Traveling with Kids blog, the above ideas were suggested by a representative of AAA, the auto club, as ways to engage children and make them better enjoy their travels. But I've also found that it increases their self-confidence and sense of self-worth, because being given responsibility basically signals to a child that he or she is respected and smart, and that making good decisions is within their area of ability. This is the way it worked with me, in the wake of my many summer vacations with my Kansas relatives, and especially the summer trip to Europe I was lucky enough to enjoy with my parents the summer before high school.
Knowledge Equals Power
The other part of the self-confidence equation comes from the experience itself, and can often times pay dividends for weeks, months and years beyond the travel experience. When peers find out that a child has been someplace new and different and has that experience under their belt, it often times sets them on a different level, helping to shape and widen an outsider's view of the traveler. Where someone has been lends depth to the perception of who they are. And in a real sense, travel equals quantifiable knowledge. Life experiences like those absorbed during a special trip suggests a broader perspective, and gives a child a chance to talk about themselves in a unique way. Both in the telling and the experiencing, a child has a chance to feel better about themselves, because they've seen things most other people haven't and can speak from experience about a corner of the world on which others may not have the same grasp.
Internally, travel also expands the perception a kid has of the world, and therefore, themselves. The idea that there's a big society out there, apart from the politics of their backyard and neighborhood, tends to give a kid bigger ideas about life. It may even change the way they see themselves, as more accomplished, for example, and better able to handle challenges. Assuming nothing horrendous happens while on the road, it will probably also make future travel less of a daunting idea, which in turn expands the possibilities that a kid sees for themselves in the future. This was definitely the case with me. Years after all those summer road trips to Kansas, the idea of driving across country to follow the annual tide of acting auditions in New York and Los Angeles seemed like no big deal. The fact that I was able to jump into that without reservation had obvious positive repercussions. Not only did TV commercials and other acting work pay for my college tuition, they more or less led me toward my present life in broadcasting by getting me comfortable on camera and giving me a leg up on a lot of other young would-be reporters.
In short, travel can be intellectually liberating for kids, and whenever a child feels smart or improved, it's an automatic self-confidence booster. And the more a child feels confident, the more he or she is likely to succeed.
MORE TRAVELING WITH KIDS BLOGS:Cheap Eats, Attractions, National Parks Read more Parenting Perspective blogs by visiting the Parenting Channel on 6abc.com.