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Stress and Long Car Rides

Survive the Stress Of Long Car Rides with Kids


Updated December 19, 2011

Stress and Long Car Rides

Long car rides, especially road trips with kids, can be frustrating. These strategies can help you to manage the stress.

Photo from iStockPhoto.com

Long car rides can bring fond family memories, but they can also create stress. Boredom, irritability and lack of preparedness can turn a long trip into a claustrophobic experience with soured memories. Such trips are often he only means of transportation a family can afford, and the wonderful experiences you can find by visiting families and seeing new places should not be missed simply because the method of transportation may present a few challenges. If you have a long car ride coming up, fear not; with a little planning, you can head off some of the car trip stressors that most families encounter, and create an experience you may want to remember after all.

Use Music

Music can be an amazing buffer for stress. It can ease tension, soothe your physiology, bring back happy memories and warm feelings, create a mood of fun and more. Music can be used to create energy or produce calm feelings, can be entertaining or can provide a backdrop for whatever mood you want to create (other than a stressed and frustrated one). Before you leave for your trip, create a playlist with your mp3 player or collection of CDs, so you can control what you listen to and when. Try to find music that everyone can agree on. If you are a certain type of family, a selection of sing-along songs may be just the thing to keep you entertained and happy on the long ride.

Play Games

Back before we had hand-held gaming devices (of which I am a big fan, by the way), families had to be creative in finding games that could be played in the car. And while these car games may not have been the most exciting or high-scoring, I myself have several fond memories of playing them with my siblings, as do many people. Games like "I Spy" or "The License Plate Game" tend to have a mentally stimulating angle, can be played quietly, can involve a carful of people and aren’t so competitive that younger family members will be left in tears. Here is a selection of recommended road trip games for kids of all ages.

Get Some Space

After several hours on the road, it’s natural for siblings to get on each other’s nerves. Conflict resolution strategies can be helpful, and it can help to create space as well. While we can’t get physical distance from one another, creating mental and emotional "space" can really help. You can do so by coming prepared with earphones to listen to music, a book to read (for those who are not driving and don’t get carsick) or a pillow to lean back and prop against the window and use for napping or meditation (again, for non-drivers, of course). Younger kids can be kept busy with activity books if you don’t have access to Leapsters, DS’s, iPods or iPads. Even just looking out the window and getting lost in some meditation or daydreaming can take passengers of all ages away. Sometimes a little space can go a long way.

Be Prepared

This may go without saying, but a little preparation can head off a lot of perspiration. Be sure everyone dresses in comfortable clothing, uses the restroom before leaving and has water and a few snacks. If you have someone in your family who gets carsick, be sure to prepare for that. If you have small children, you may want to see if there are any parks or reasonably fun places you can stop to break up the trip. Bring a blanket if the ride will be cold, and drinks if you don’t want to stop for them. Go online and find the quickest route. Calculate how quickly you will get there, factoring in traffic, so you know what to expect. And be sure your car has a first-aid kit, just in case. The more you plan ahead, the fewer emergencies you’ll face, and the easier the trip will be.

Have Back-Up Plans

If it’s possible to have an alternate route in case of bad traffic, be sure you know what it is. If things get too difficult and you find yourself falling asleep at the wheel, consider stopping at a motel if other stay-awake tricks don’t work. Be flexible, creative and willing to revert to a "Plan B" if necessary. You may save yourself the stress of dragging an over-tired, over-frustrated group through a more difficult trip than necessary.

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