Contributed by Jody McVittie, MD
Part of my memory of early family vacations include very annoying choruses of, “Are we there yet?” from the back seat. In my more sarcastic moments my internal voice was saying, “Are we stopped yet?” “Does it look like it?” and other variations of maternal snarkiness. I’m not proud of it, but I know that I didn’t always keep my thoughts to myself.
Gradually though, I learned to hear those choruses differently. They were voices of a trio that had not been involved in planning; three children who felt like baggage just being “transported” to a vacation location. Sitting in the car or train or airplane didn’t have a lot of meaning for them. That led to some modifications that changed the chorus. Here are some hints to “retune” your backseat chorus:
Involve children in planning. The more they are involved, the more children are engaged. There are lots of things your children can help plan including: the car seating arrangements, the route, interesting stops along the route, meal and snack stops, meals for the vacation, activities for different days of your vacation. Kids can have travel jobs that rotate (e.g. navigator, recycler, history narrator, distance/time monitor etc.) Ask your children to think ahead. What challenges will we face? How can we address them?
Have each child pack a small “busy” bag. If you have a relatively long travel time ask your child how he will “take care of himself” when he gets a little bored. What are some things he could bring along in a small bag that would work? Decide ahead of time whether electronics are “allowed” in the bag.
Make a list of things to do while en-route that everyone could enjoy. Our list included listening to music, singing along, stories, reading to each other, playing a variety of “I Spy” or alphabet games.
You are a parent not an entertainer – but some of the time in the car can be an opportunity to connect to each other. You could:
• each tell one of your favorite memories from a different vacation.
• tell stories about your own childhood.
• take turns remembering “famous mistakes” that you have made.
Remember having fun as a family takes practice. Take time after your trip to ask each other what you learned that could make it better next time.
As the executive director of a Sound Discipline, we have our own version of, “Are we there yet?” You may know that we work with teachers and parenting educators to make the Puget Sound Area a better place for all of us. We have parenting educators who speak English, Spanish, Somali and Arabic. We offer tools for teachers and administrators to build respectful school communities so that your children have a better place to learn – AND we need your help. The Seattle Foundation is sponsoring a community wide day of giving on June 23 (7 AM to midnight). If you can donate on June 23rd, your donation will grow instantly: we will also get a portion of the matching funds from the Seattle Foundation. Here is the link. We and the families and schools we serve appreciate your support!
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