Today I want to talk about traveling, because for the past 4 months, my family and I have been on sabbatical in Israel. Getting here and enrolled in school and adjusting to daily routine here was interesting, to say the least, although relatively uneventful as far as these things go. I am particularly interested, though, in the effect of this travel on my children, and especially on their psychological/emotional/intellectual development. So I asked all my science sources, What does science say about travel in general, and especially about its effect on children?
It turns out much of the scientific literature on this topic focuses on children of divorced families and relocation that occurs incidental to the separation (which does not apply), and also on young refugees who are fleeing an unstable situation in the place of origin (also not applicable). However, some internet articles that I found were relevant, especially the one that claimed I am making my children into more empathetic adults by traveling internationally with them (see: https://qz.com/763433/want-your-children-to-grow-into-more-empathetic-adults-travel-with-them/). According to this article, traveling internationally allows children to experience different cultures and relieves them of some of their innately egocentric way of thinking and viewing the world. Amazing!
Another article says international travel will develop children’s creativity (see: https://www.healthytravelblog.com/2016/07/26/what-kids-can-learn-from-traveling-abroad/). I guess that may explain why my 6 year old consistently talks to the hundred little people that live inside him and only come out at night to play (although to be fair, he talked to them in MA also). Or maybe it explains the 3.5 year old picking up scraps of paper and calling them “pretend phones” (pretty sure that may reflect how much time I spend on my phone, more likely).
What about the negative effects? Well it turns out that kids are more likely to develop certain bacterial infections from international travel, most of which are fairly non-serious although can be irritating. Note that adults can also develop these bacterial infections; however, the relatively poor hygiene habits of children make them more likely to develop such diseases. There are a few articles that talk about stress to children and entire families from such travel (see: https://www.stuff.co.nz/travel/themes/family/92935668/travel-bad-for-kids-mental-health-psychologist-says), saying that stability of location is more important than the positive experiences that may result from such travel.
All in all, an interesting topic to think about, and perhaps use in planning future long-term international travel adventures! Happy traveling, readers!