There’s the screaming, the whining, the sibling fighting and the rest stop requests right after a rest stop. When kids and parents are cranky while traveling, it can be a vicious cycle.<br />
Yes, there are lots of ways to keep the kids happy: stuff to do and entertainment, frequent stops if on the road, keeping healthy snacks on hand, and so on. For tips on keeping kids happy, see Avoiding Tantrums, Trouble and Stress on Family Vacations. You never see tips for parents, though. Until now.<br />
Start the Trip Relaxed<br />
The best way to avoid parent meltdowns is to start the trip in the right frame of mind. It doesn’t help that a pre-trip morning or night before, many parents are scrambling to get ready for the trip. Instead, try this:<br />
Pretend you are leaving at least 24 hours beforehand. Have everything done a day before so that you can spend the night before and/or the morning of the trip without rushing.<br />
Just before the trip, let each parent take 30 minutes to do whatever is relaxing, such as listening to music, taking a bath, getting a massage or whatever will give the parent some peace and quiet before the noise and craziness of the trip.<br />
Have Goodies for the Parents, Too<br />
It’s just like parents to think only of the kids. Remember that keeping the parents happy means keeping the kids happy, too. While packing entertainment and snacks for the kids, don’t forget to pack the same for mom and dad. These are not to be shared with the kids, but just for the parents. Some good options include:<br />
A book, magazine or crossword puzzles for the parents<br />
A portable game system with some new games. Yes, for the parents.<br />
Chocolates or something else indulgent. If the kids throwing a tantrum about no sharing, bring enough for both or have something equally enticing for them.<br />
A Playlist for Parents, Too<br />
It can be tempting to keep playing kids’ music just to keep the children happy. It doesn’t help parents’ sanity, however, to hear Barney, Yo Gabba Gabba or Hannah Montana for eight hours straight in the car. Have a playlist or a mixed CD with songs for both. If the kids get cranky, blame it on the playlist and say a kids’ song with come up soon.<br />
Besides, there are lots of songs that both adults and children enjoy, especially if given a chance.<br />
Play the “Quiet Game”<br />
Don’t laugh, this does work. Kids love games and can be pretty competitive. Introduce your children to the Quiet Game. It’s simple: count to three and everyone has to be quiet. The first one to talk loses. You can play this a few times for a break in the whining or fighting.<br />
Take a Break<br />
Sometimes all it takes to recharge is to step away from the hubbub. In the car, stop at a coffee shop and let one or the other parents (or both taking turns) go inside alone for a few moments of quiet. It often doesn’t take a long break to mellow out and get a second wind.<br />
It’s tougher on a plane or train, but even stepping away for a restroom break can be helpful.<br />
It’s All in the Attitude<br />
Most of all, remember to cut yourself some slack. Don’t worry so much about schedules or itineraries. Be flexible.<br />
Traveling with kids can be challenging, and if all else fails try counting to ten slowly in your head while concentrating on your breathing. And remember, calm parents usually result in calm kids which results in calm parents. Break the cycle if things are getting too tense.<br />
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