Warning: in case you haven’t read it yet, then please spare yourself a lot of time and don’t read it. Oh, you know what I mean, that article that claims to explain, with “science,” that traveling with kids is bad for their mental health. Travel is good for kids, period. But in case you have read it and felt somewhat confused out by the argument it makes, then this post is for you.
I won’t link to the article here, but instead, will share a few great travel-related articles. But generally, the gist of it is that international travel is useless for young children given that they hate change and want to keep everything to remain the same, always. Or at least that’s the opinion of British psychologist Oliver James, and who am I to say otherwise?
Personally, I think that article is nonsense, through and through. And here’s why.
- What about the parents?
When you have kids, you don’t have to give up your love of traveling. No, you don’t. The scientist quoted in the article says home-based vacations (meaning that you go to the same place every year) are the best for kids, but what about the parents for whom the idea of spending holidays in the same place every year makes them want to stab their eyes out? If you love to travel internationally, why stop after kids? We had to stop traveling with our kids for a while, for many reasons. But would we have continued if it was possible? Oh hell yes. And besides, we’re planning to do it again.
- What about the kids?
We started traveling with our kids when they were tiny little babies. In fact, the best time to travel is with a baby. A baby doesn’t care where you are, just that you are there with her. By the time the kids are older, they are so used to seeing places all over the world that staying home is weird for them. My kids are always saying things like, “can we go somewhere, please?” or “I want to go to..” and then proceed to list at least 294739248372 countries they have to visit right now. If this is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.
- It’s opinion and experience, not science
When you read the article (Don’t. I did it for you, so you don’t have to. As Maui says, “You’re welcome”), you will see that while James, the scientist quoted in the article, actually shares his opinion and experience. So just because some guy, who just so happens to be a psychologist, waxes poetic about how much he loved his home-based vacations as a child, that of course means, that all parents, everywhere need to do the same. Yes. That makes sense. Because all families are the same, right? Wrong.
- Why would you lie to your kids?
James says that kids need stability and predictability, but the truth is that parents can’t give them that. At least not in this world where things change all the time. Maybe a few generations ago kids could have expected life to be the same as that of their parents. But not now. You no longer do what your parents did. Your job no longer relates to the subject you studied in college. In fact, you can be expected to change jobs, countries, cities, houses, and learn new skills all the time. Pretending that things stay the same when they don’t is simply lying to your kids. What to do instead? Show them how to embrace change, or at least, how to deal with it. Call it grit, or resilience or open-mindedness, or anything you like, but just don’t pretend that change never happens. Besides, there is one thing that does stay the same when you travel: you.
- If you start with teens, it’s already too late
James claims that kids can’t deal with change until they’re teenagers. I don’t have teens yet, but somehow this doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Because just as your kids start to hate you and prefer their friends, that’s when you want to start traveling with them? Good luck with that because quite soon they may not want to travel with you at all. That’d be, like, so lame. So that’s so many years wasted you could have traveled with your kids but didn’t. Sad. What about starting a little bit earlier (by which I mean as soon as possible), and having more fun, and by the time they are teenagers they will see travel as normal? And maybe it would even help to knock off some of that typical teenage know-it-all attitude? Again, I don’t have teens but am happy to report back in a few years.
- The scientist believes that parents are responsible for their kids’ mental illness
Oliver James claims that parents are single-handedly responsible for their kids’ mental illness. And how did he arrive at that insightful thought? Because he once heard a geneticist saying that they didn’t find any genes responsible for mental illness. Because just because geneticists couldn’t find a gene doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and besides, things like mental illness are incredibly complex. We know there is a genetic component involved, but we don’t know exactly how it works.
So that article? A bunch of nonsense, dressed up as “science.” Also, can I just say how much I am annoyed by the trend that every parental decision needs to be explained by science? Do I need to justify taking my kids traveling for reasons other than “just because?” No, I don’t think so. And I can’t even believe I have to write this in the first place.
Sure, there are all kinds of families and all kinds of kids. But saying traveling is bad for kids’ mental health? Ridiculous.