Mother: “My son is almost 17 and will be traveling alone for the first time this year, from a foreign youth camp to our holiday address in Europe. He first goes home from the camp by train, then the next day he takes public transport to Schiphol, to fly to us from there.
“Maybe I’m making it too much of a thing, but I’m nervous about whether it will work. We have traveled as a family so he has travel experience. I went to Schiphol with him, showed him where the departure hall is, ‘and then you have to walk like this, and then you go through customs and that’s how you find the gate’. He is very nonchalant about it. When I ask: do you think it will work, he says very vaguely: yes yes yes. But he is more of a doer than a talker. How do you best prepare a child (and yourself) for traveling alone?”
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Ria Balm: “Children who start driving independently are always a source of concern for parents. By bike into the busy city, by bike to school camp, by scooter. There are so many outside influences in traffic that you as a parent have no control over. This also applies to traveling alone: strikes and delays can suddenly disrupt the journey.
“To be able to deal with unexpected things, it is important to train the improvisational capacity of children. In this case, you can increase your son’s self-reliance by lightly preparing him for what might happen. So that he has a list in his head of what he can do in case of calamities, to whom and where he can ask questions.
“You call your son a doer; how you get along on the road is a verbal matter. If he sits next to a freak on the plane, he must dare to address the flight attendant. Talk that through a few times.
“Look forward to that moment when he will soon be in the arrivals hall, and you have both taken another step.”
Make a checklist together
Jelle Jolles: „Walking too long at the duty-free shops and missing your flight, someone who puts something in your backpack; When traveling, things can indeed go wrong. Discuss with your son what can happen, but don’t make it too hard.
“Son already has travel experience, and the memories of that can be activated by going through together which steps the journey consists of, and in which order you carry them out. Look up pictures of the train stations together and view the map of Schiphol on the internet. Ask to make it an active image: ‘What do you see before you?’ This helps him to create a whole ‘train’ of images in his head: good for anticipation and planning.
Make a checklist together for the three parts of his journey: part 1 is the journey from camp home. Part 2 is ‘home’, and what he should do there and take with him. Part 3 is the journey to and from Schiphol.
“Parents are quickly told in these kinds of situations: ‘Let go of that child, it will find its way.’ That’s the wrong response. As parents, you can certainly help children with these kinds of major new planning tasks in this advisory way.”