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Setting Boundaries: Teaching Your Kids About Border Crossings

wpblog3For many children their first international trips involve crossing the border of a neighboring country. For kids from the United States this often means Canada or Mexico and for Canadian tots this generally means the United States. As Niagara Falls encompasses both the United States and Canada, a family vacation in Niagara might mean that your children will cross an international border for the first time.

The concept of international borders is a fluid one and in other parts of the world borders can even change without notice. However, your children might have questions about crossing a border into another country. How does it work? What happens when I’m in another country? What will be different?

If your family vacation to Niagara Falls is going to involve your child’s first border crossing, these are a few ways you can explain the process in simple and easy to understand terms.

What Is My Passport?

For some children their passport is their first form of official identification but they might not know exactly what it’s for or why they need it. If your child is old enough try to involve them in the application process as much as you can.

Explain that a passport shows who they are and where they come from and that this document is very, very important. Without it they won’t be granted admission to other countries.

What Happens When We Cross the Border?

Even for seasoned, adult travelers border crossings can be confusing, especially when one crosses by land. Your child may have questions about borders and what happens when they cross. Without delving too deeply into current affairs you can explain to your child what to expect when crossing the border.

Let them know that border agents are there to ensure that everyone has the proper documents and paperwork. The border agent will ask to see passports and other paperwork. You can explain to your child that you, as the parent, will take care of most of the interaction with the border agents, but they should be quiet and respectful and answer questions if asked. You can also let them know that there may be a line to wait in and they should try to be patient.

What Does It Mean When I’m in Another Country?

wpblog4Travel is a wonderful gift for any child and learning how to be a respectful traveler might be even more important. While the transition from Canada to the United States and vice versa might not seem like too much of a change to a child, it is a great opportunity to discuss how to behave as a guest in another country.

You can explain that it’s important to be respectful of the laws and customs of other countries. You can prepare younger children with age-appropriate books or informative websites about international travel and let older children and teens explore websites on their own. The important thing is to reinforce the fact that they are a guest and should behave appropriately while enjoying their experience.

Travel is a wonderful way to allow children to experience other cultures but it’s equally important for them to understand the mechanics of moving across borders. Utilize these tips with your children during your next trip to Niagara and encourage them to expand their world.

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