We all have visions of wonderful holiday get-togethers...
But after eight hours in the car with the kids, these visions get wobbly. How can we make the best of the trip, so that --when the family piles out of the car at Grandma's-- everyone's still speaking to one another? And no one's in tears?
.. is the golden rule. Pack the night before, and allow plenty of time for the trip including meal stops, bathroom stops, and stretch-your-legs stops. (Bring a frisbee or a ball for exercise at rest stops.)
Listen for the telltale signals that your little ones are wearing down: like that change in voice pitch (that drives you nuts.)
This is not the time to push on for the next 100 miles!
Better to take a break, be a little late, and arrive in good psychological shape.
A few minutes of prevention are worth a hour of damage control after a spat or meltdown: the more you keep the kids amused, the less conflict will occur. Luckily, on a car trip, you can take along a big bag of tricks.
- Check this long list of amusements for trips with kids.
Spats happen. An excellent parenting-help book is Siblings Without Rivalry. Clear prose plus cartoons help you get beyond unhelpful responses, like "Stop it, you two!" and "Who started it?"
Online, Positive Parenting has tips for stand-offs with preschoolers:
- "The First Step is to Sidestep": step around a power struggle, instead of stepping into your opposing role.
- Sidestep with the unexpected. (If a preschooler's fretful in the car ask some silly questions, like, "Did you see that huge dinosaur?")
- give choices, not orders: your child will resist more if she feels forced.
Every parent hates a tantrum... But your child is probably hating it just as much as you.
- Here's advice on Avoiding Tantrums on The Trip.
And once you're at Grandma's:
Hopefully the kids will play like angels while the Thanksgiving turkey roasts.
But if you end up constantly "hushing" them, or find that your relatives have a completely opposite style of parenting...
One tactic is to schedule a short, fun, family meeting every day. Your kids can count on having a private time to talk to you about anything that might be bothering them.