Whether it’s your own kids or someone else’s, sooner or later you’ll have to drive with children in the car. So, here’s how to cope with the crying, screaming, arguing, food tossing, and ‘are we there yet?’s.
Prepare For The Trip
Preparing for your trip is probably the most important thing you can do. For example, if you want to protect your vehicle’s interior, you should buy good quality car seat covers, lay down old blankets to keep mud and dirt off your seats, and not give the kids things like crayons and markers, or food, which they can (and probably will) use to mess up the back seat.
Plan out fun activities that engage your child while on the trip. For example, instead of giving your kids “assignments” or distractions, talk to them, or give them music to listen to or listen to music together. This works especially well for short trips. On longer trips, you might need to be more creative.
Plan Short Trips During The Day
If you can, plan short trips during the day. This prevents boredom from sinking in and makes the trip more enjoyable for everyone. If it’s longer trip, see if you can plan an overnight travel schedule so that your child sleeps through the whole thing (or most of it).
Acknowledge The Child Without Causing Problems
According to psychologist Haim Ginott, many parents do more harm than good when their children become upset. Ginott recommends that parents:
● Not invite dependence
● Not correct facts
● Not violate privacy
● Avoid cliches
● Avoid talking too much
● Avoid labeling
● Avoid using reverse psychology
● Avoid contradictory messages
● Avoid “futurizing”
What does this mean for your road trip? It means that, when your child is screaming, you shouldn’t be looking for ways to shut down a child’s emotional state without understanding it first. When a child screams, it’s usually because something is happening to the child.
For example, if your child is screaming, or another child in the car (not your own) is screaming, what happened leading up to that event? Did the child make a comment which you ignored or minimized?
Sometimes, a child might say something like “I’m hungry,” and if a parent ignores or minimizes it, the child feels unheard and will repeat, louder and often much more emotionally, “I’m hungry now, now now now now!” Children can’t control their emotional states like adults, so parents often see this as a “temper tantrum,” but it was sparked by ignoring the child’s initial feelings.
In situations like this, it’s best to acknowledge the child’s hunger, and either stop to get something to eat or explain that you can’t stop to eat right now because it will make the family late but that the child will get something to eat at a certain point (if you can be specific, all the better).
If you practice understanding your child, without labeling him or her (i.e. “you’re a brat”), using reverse psychology (“go ahead, keep crying”), inviting dependence (“if you’re good, I’ll give you some candy”), and cliches (“a good child is a quiet one”), then you’ll find that your trip is much more enjoyable, even when the occasional outbreak occurs.