As an expat parent your children are likely to fly more often than most. If there is more than a four-hour time difference between your home and destination country, you may have to cope with jet lagged children.
Child jet lag symptoms
Many of the symptoms of child jet lag are similar to those of an adult. They include:
- Inability to sleep
- Sleeping but waking up in the middle of the night
- Mood changes
- Not feeling well
What’s different is children are much more susceptible to jet lag because their brain is less mature. Children can’t adapt to sleep cues as readily as an adult, meaning they may be more impacted by jet lag and it can take them longer to adjust when you get to your destination.
How long does it take a child to get over jet lag?
How do you help a child with jet lag?
There are a number of ways you can help your children (and yourself) reduce the amount of jet lag experienced when travelling long haul. Some are quick fixes, but others are dependent on your itinerary and budget for the move:
1. Consider a layover
If you are travelling to the other side of the world i.e. from Oceania to Europe or vice versa can you factor in a stop-over? Or even better a family holiday for a week en route? This will help your children adjust to the time difference in a more manageable way.
If a layover isn’t possible, try to plan the longest leg of your journey as an overnight flight. Arriving in your destination in the morning may help you and your children overcome jet lag a little faster.
3. Pretend you are there
Start making small changes to your routine in the days leading up to your departure to help your family adjust to the new time zone. Ideas include:
- Moving bedtimes by an hour or two
- Getting up earlier
- Adjusting a clock in your home to the new time
- Adjusting mealtimes
These small steps should help when it comes to adjusting to your new time zone.
4. Keep children comfortable on the plane
Dress your children as comfortably as possible for the flight. Pack their favourite comfort blanket or teddy in your carry-on luggage. Having these items to hand will help as you navigate the airport with your children too. Once you board the plane, help your child make their seat as cosy as possible so they can relax and, hopefully, sleep.
5. Time your sleep on arrival
Although it may be tempting to sleep as soon as you get to your destination. If you arrive in the morning, try to keep your children (and yourself) awake until early evening. If this is proving too difficult for your children, let them have a short nap early in the day.
6. Get some sunlight
Sunlight influences your body’s regulation of melatonin, the hormone that helps us sleep. Help your family adjust to a new time zone by taking a walk around your new home when you arrive. If possible go to a local park with a playground the combination of exercise and excitement should help your children stay awake a little longer.
7. Factor in jet lag
Although your family should be active enough to avoid falling asleep it is best not to plan any major activities in your first few days. Stay awake by exploring your new city or town, visiting their new school or finding the best local parks.
8. Eat well and stay hydrated
Help your child adjust to a new time zone by eating little and often during the first few days. As their bodies catch up, children may feel hungry at unusual times. Have lots of healthy snacks to hand to get them through the first few days. Also provide them with lots of water and juice drinks to rehydrate after your flight.
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