Consider this scenario. Because of school schedules, we did try Magic Formula #2 (See Part 1) recently and it was awesome! The older boys flew to Utah and then drove home with us. As we approached the return drive, I heard our oldest make a comment to his younger brother about how he’d better not act like “that” on the drive home or else it would be miserable. To which the younger sibling replied, “Hey, just so you know, we had a great drive up here without you in the car. We just listened to music and sang. It was awesome!” In my mind the unstated was, “So don’t tell me I’m the problem.”
I loved it! Don’t we always want someone else to be the problem? Reality check, we are travelling with children. They are unpredictable, emotional, and full of energy. We know this AND we are agreeing to strap them into the car and be cooped up for a lot of hours; pretty sure this was NOT their idea.
Tip #2: Be flexible. Some days we can hit the road and pound through the miles with little fanfare and few stops. Other days, stops at the gas station and roadside distractions are what make the trip.
Things don’t always go as planned so build extra time into your travel plans. Part of the fun is the journey so allow for some wiggle room.
Be mindful and notice what is going well before the chaos breaks out.
When things do get tense, acknowledge the emotional state of the child, and help them walk through it. “I know, you are so sick of this car. It’s hard to be so close to everyone. Do you need to punch this
pillow….take some deep breaths…take a walk….can I sit between you guys…hold your hand…read you a story? “
Often children want our help. We just don’t want to be bothered and are irritated that our bag of tricks isn’t working. This is where the flexibility comes in again. Sit with them in the yuck of the drive and don’t worry about giving in.
I remember one day we pulled over for nameless unhappy family members and found ourselves in the parking lot of an ATV outlet, a pawn shop, and a nail salon next door. Odd combination, but perfect! The boys went one direction, the girls another. Half an hour later we were ready to keep going.
If your brain is like mine, it can’t always access these fun stories on the spot so flip through your photos before leaving and come ready with a few memories of each family member. Share stories of extended family members too. Just follow the natural momentum and exchange that will follow. It also helps to remember that you love these people you are travelling with!
Tip #5: Give yourself permission to take a break. Get out of the car until the crazy stops. Put in your earbuds and do some deep breathing or listen to some music. Go to the bathroom and don’t come out for a few minutes. (Tell your adult cohort so they don’t wonder!) Create some space until you, and they, are ready to be nice again.
Remember, there is no magic formula! It is unlikely that your road trip will be flawless. You should actually count on tired kids and parents, maybe a few tears, and at least one moment of melt down (not promising it will be the child that does the melting). If we accept the rough spots as part of the experience, we can enjoy the ride and move from moment to the next and create connection.
Check back Monday for some practical ideas on preparing the stuff and keeping kids entertained!