In today’s world, a little kindness goes a long way. In fact, research shows that encouraging kids to be kind has a positive influence on a slew of academic, health and social outcomes including increased self-esteem, motivation to learn and resilience.
There is no better time than now to incorporate an extra dose of kindness into your next family vacation.
Here are some ideas to consider.
Pack an attitude of gratitude: Leave impatience and judgment behind and showcase an attitude of gratitude as travel resumes. Lead with a smile and offer thanks to those you meet along the way. From harried flight attendants, pilots, TSA agents and front desk personnel to tour guides, bus drivers, restaurant servers and room attendants, encourage the kids to say thank you whenever appropriate. Consider leaving a handwritten note or crayon drawing along with your tip, an extra effort sure to garner a smile from the recipient. If you loved your hotel stay or guest ranch experience, leave a note congratulating the whole crew for a job well done.
Be aware of your surroundings: Given that each destination may have different protocols and protective measures in place, it will be important for younger travelers to understand that expectations may change. Talk about the need to give people space and to respect the choices and practices of other travelers.
Discuss (and model) how offering a seat or opening a door can be helpful. Encourage the heavily laden or parents managing a cranky child to go ahead in line. Perhaps a strong teen can assist a frail adult with removing a heavy piece of luggage from the overhead compartment. In the queue for a soda or coffee? Quietly pay for someone in uniform, the elderly or the frontline worker behind you in line. By simply taking notice, opportunities for extending kindness will multiply.
Go local: Travel and tourism and the individuals who keep the industry humming have been among those hardest hit by the pandemic. As you plan your future vacation, discuss how the places you will visit might be different or similar to your own home.
Once you arrive, burrow into the culture and make a point to learn about how and where the locals live, work and play. Skip the chains and seek out locally owned eateries, shops and lodging. Visit local farmer’s markets. If the language is not your own, learn at least a few key phrases and practice them before and during the visit.
In the end, education and experience breed understanding, compassion and confidence.
Building character and compassion: As always, travel provides parents and grandparents the opportunity to model what matters most. Will you exhibit patience when your planned activities must shift due to changing circumstances? Will you continue to smile when the socially distanced line snakes around the corner, your hotel room is not ready, or the restaurant server accidentally spills a drink on your table? As travel gets underway again, delayed flights, weather changes or uneven service can help all of us learn to live in the moment, share resources, manage unexpected consequences and see the bright side of the occasional travel mishap. And, after spending so much time at home, we can be grateful for the opportunity to visit extended family and explore once again. In the end, how the adults respond to challenging scenarios will influence the developing character of young adventurers.