Jet lag, you sly dog, you’ve done it again. You’ve fed them after midnight and turned my sweet little angels into sweet little monsters. Well, we’re not going down without a fight. Here are our best tips to help with the jet lag woes.
Hydration – Studies show that one of the best ways to prevent jet lag is to stay hydrated. Use this as a preventive measure even before you take off. In the days leading up to a long flight make sure that everyone in the family gets plenty to drink and give your kids get lots of water on the plane. Don’t be afraid to ask the flight attendant for an extra round of apple juice. Flying is notorious for causing dehydration so, you will want to drink more than you think you need. For the adults in the family, keep in mind that alcohol and caffeine can actually cause dehydration so it’s best to avoid them around travel time.
Keep a Schedule – As much as possible you’ll want stick to your normal schedule. As soon as you land (or even before) change your clocks to the local time. Try not to think about what time it “really” is back home. That only makes it worse. When traveling west it can be very tempting to go to bed at 5:00pm. Don’t. And try your best to keep your kids up until as close to bedtime as possible. If anyone wants a nap don’t let it be a long one (when I say long I mean longer than normal). The first day is always the hardest but I have found that if we can keep a good schedule we can kick the jet lag in just a couple of days.
Sometimes vacations are scheduled for you with very little wiggle room. So, if you are traveling for a special event, like a wedding, you might want to consider getting there a few days early so that your kids have some time to adjust before they are paraded around for inspection and cheek-pinching by your friends and relatives.
Soak up the Sunlight – use it to your advantage. The sun naturally signals to our bodies that they should be awake. So, do your best to spend your first day of jet lag outside. When traveling East, your kids might want to sleep in. I know… that sounds SO wonderful! But don’t let them sleep too long. Get them up and take them outside. Let them see the sunshine. It will help their internal clocks (and yours) regulate to the new time.
Midnight Snacks and Stories – Especially when we are traveling east, our kids will almost certainly wake up bright-eyed and ready to go sometime around 2:00 in the morning. If they do wake up, the first night or two you might consider letting them get up for a little while. Keep this time calm and quiet. Sing lullabies instead of running around, don’t turn on too many lights, etc. Make them a sandwich, watch a short movie, read some stories and tuck them back in bed.
Roll with it – Confession: last time we got home from an overseas trip I crawled into the crib and slept there with my one-year-old son. It was 1 in the morning and even after a snack, a story, and an episode of Dora he would not fall asleep. So, I just climbed on in for a little snuggling (drastic times you know). Mind you, this in not a normal practice in my house but it worked. After half an hour he was asleep. Later that night our two-year-old found her way to our bed and was not removed for several hours.
Avoid Un-prescribed Medication – Many parents have been known to give their children some Children’s Benadryl or other similar medications to help kids sleep. I’m the kind of person that is weary to take medication even when it’s prescribed so you can imagine what side of this controversy I’m on. Even so, I’m not one to judge. If you are considering medications, let me just suggest that you ask a doctor about it first and make sure that you talk about proper dosing as overdose is the largest concern. Also, it’s important to know that while antihistamines have known drowsiness effects in adults, they can actually have very different side effects in kids. Children’s Benadryl says that it may cause “excitability” in small children, which is kind of what you are trying to avoid in the first place.
With all the risks associated with giving children medication without doctor approval, I would recommend just avoiding it all together. Instead, you might consider a more natural solution. Lavender, for example, has natural soothing and calming properties. I have some essential lavender oil that I rub on my kids feet and pillows before bedtime the night we get home from a long trip. It’s not going to knock them out but it is a much safer sleep aid.
Culture Shock vs. Jet Lag – If it’s been a week and you still think they might have switched out your kids for different ones at customs you might recognize that maybe jet lag isn’t the culprit. Sometimes kids have a hard time being taken our of their home environment. New beds and new faces can contribute to grumpiness just as much as a new time-zone. You might want to take a special stuffed animal or toy with you on your trip to remind them of home. Be patient with them, make sure to show extra love, and they’ll get used to it.
If you have any other ideas on how to help kids with jet lag please leave us a comment. We love to hear from you.