Raising five children who are 13 years apart with twins in the mix has kept me scrambling to get out the door to go anywhere over the years. From simple grocery store outings, to church, to birthday parties, to a day trip, to a family vacation, I’ve found myself rushing the kids and raising my voice and stressing my kids out to be someplace on time. I’ve hurried them and yelled at them all the while raising their anxiety levels as well as my own.
But things changed a few years ago when my then 7-year-old Gus said to me:
“Mom, why are you always in a hurry and stressing us out?”
Gulp. I love the way our kids teach us lessons.
Since that experience and many others along the road of parenting life, I’ve come up with four strategies to keep in mind when trying to get from point A to point B.
Though these ideas are designed to simplify departing for a day road trip, they can be adapted to any situation when trying to get out the door with children. One thing is key to all: get kids involved.
1. Preparation. Sit your children down the night before your trip to talk about what you will be doing, where you will be going, and the expectations you have for them as well as yourself for your day away. Ask one of your kids to look up the weather, one to look up the distance to the final destination, and one to look up the details of the location. Then have your kids get their backpacks out and add the appropriate clothes and sunscreen for the weather; if you're going to the beach, pack shovels and buckets, if it's a hike, be sure they have good shoes. A camera is also important, or their phonesfor photos.ones. Then, perhaps most importantly, include nonperishable food items like granola bars and fruit rollups in your kids' backpacks. I always say, feed them and they’re happy. Just, be prepared.
2. Count backwards. So, once you’ve got the physical prep work done for your outing, talk to your kids about the timing of everything related to the trip, then count backwards. If, for example, you need to be back home by 6 p.m. for a 7 p.m. commitment, think of the number of hours it will take to get to your destination, adding in potential stops, then figure out how long you will be at your destination. Add up all of those times, and count backwards to determine what time you will need to leave by. Tell the kids and have them set their own alarm clocks.
3. Three Warnings. Kids get engrossed in certain activities as I know do. I’ve found that giving kids at least three warnings before you have to be somewhere is an excellent strategy to lower stress level. When my sixth grader is playing his Mindcraft game, it is really hard to break him away. Instead, I warn him when we’re 20 minutes from take off, and then again 10 minutes before we need to leave. These first two warnings have helped for that final warning 5 minutes before we need to leave by.
4. It’s Always about Relationships.
In the end, being on time to your fun, amazing, outing while yelling at your kid defeats the purpose. Remember, it’s just a place, an activity, an event, a birthday party -- or a day trip. Your child is more important than you having to maintain a no-strike-you’re-out record. Your relationship with your child is the most important thing and staying calm fosters that emotional bond with your kid. Kids sense your stress, which in turn stresses them out, which in turn, makes them not want to be around you.
And, how do you keep your stress level down? By packing your items the night before.
Or, get up earlier than the kids.