We’ve all been there, the dreaded holiday road trip. Just the mention of a long car ride is enough to cause crying, moaning, and flashbacks of trips past. Then, we get to think of the kid’s reactions. The first job that we, as parents, must do is recognize the warning signs for issues, and take steps to counter them before they grow out of control.
Here are some strategies that we all can use to help make that holiday road trip to Grandma’s house more enjoyable:
1.Get a good night’s sleep. Nobody is at their best on only a few hours of sleep.
2.Pack the car the night before. Helps to minimize parental stress getting everything ready to leave.
3. Discuss and pre-teach expectations prior to beginning of the trip. This way all you have to do is provide reminders for appropriate behaviors. Also, this will help minimize anxiety if children know what is expected of them and what to expect. Remember, any change in routine can bring stress for children. So, make sure to build in relaxation and reconnection time with the kids.
4. Don’t forget snacks and water. Nothing says a cranky child or adult like hunger or dehydration. Don’t forget wet wipes and paper towels. Remember, these are children.
5. Stop frequently. Incorporate fun stops along the way, not just bathroom breaks. Use this time to see a new sight or get out and stretch as a family. This will help alleviate the boredom and break up the “are we there yets?” Yoga, anyone?
6. Use hourly Time Sticky notes for long trips. One sticky note for every hour. Allows children to visually see the progression of the trip with the removal of the sticky. Plus, they can count how many hours are left by the remaining notes.
7. Pack a “Travel Bag” for the kids. Things to Include: favorite books, color safe markers, fidget toys, calming bottle, magnetic car games, card games, felt books, etc.
8. Make sure to have verbal games at the ready: Alphabet games, memory games, license plate games, sentence games, I Spy with landmarks, scavenger hunts with road signs, and silly story prompts that each family member joins in to create.
9.Don’t forget a small blanket for each child. This can help calm, provide comfort and warmth, and bring part of home with them on the trip.
10. Last but not least….Have Fun. This is a time with family. Enjoy each other and live in the spirit of the holiday.
[Angela Ford, LCSW, program coordinator for MFH’s Nettleton school-based counseling program.]