So you’re thinking of taking your family to another country? What should you do to prepare your kids for this trip? Let me suggest some ideas for your offspring. I’m going to try to fit these ideas for kids of different ages. I will tell you what my wife and I did. If you tell me your kids’ ages, I can help you plan even better.
The first step my wife and I took was to give everyone enough lead time to plan for and get excited about the prospect of travel to another country. We didn’t want to pop up the idea all at once and say, “Gee, we’re going.”
So we set up a family meeting and introduced the idea. We had our meeting at a dinner with some of the foods of the country to which we’d travel. We had maps, visual and reading materials, and some websites ready for inspection. We also had some music from that country available. We told the kids about plans and asked them what they knew about the country—its culture, languages, anything. (We even included the kids’ teachers in planning this.)
The material we showed them included lots of activities for kids their ages to do. We featured them, saying that those were activities to which they could look forward when we went. We gave them time to react. What would they like? What might they be afraid of? What would present problems for them? We encouraged them to do some research online or elsewhere to find out more about the country.
We talked to them about missing their friends and pets and how they could keep in touch, such as texting or e-mail.
We introduced possible difficulties they might have. For example, depending on the country, boys and girls would be expected to act and dress differently. How would we address that cultural difference? We role-played certain situations. We went over how to handle money and how they would be expected to act. In some countries, for example, it isn’t appropriate for a buyer to hand the seller money, but acceptable to put it on the counter or table. My wife and I also talked about how we would handle these differences.
We suggested that they might expect that people in the other country might not have the same ideas as they. Aside from treating boys and girls in different ways, the people of the visited country might expect kids to act more formally in many situations. So, we reviewed and role-played proper etiquette. We also went through phrase books and practiced a bit of the language.
Lastly, we encouraged them to keep a journal and to take pictures. They could choose to keep a private journal and share this with friends, and/or share it with their teachers. At the end of our trip, we as a family could do a “How did it go?” meal to celebrate our trip.