By Karen Ryce
Q: “We’re going to be doing a lot of driving during our vacation this summer. Do you have any suggestions for making this easy and enjoyable?”
T.S., McKinleyville, CA
A: First, it is important for ease and pleasure that your family be used to negotiating mutually agreeable solutions to any disagreements. This keeps tempers even and usually results in more interesting, enjoyable, and adventurous experiences than if the parents are in charge and make all the decisions.
It can be helpful to have some guidelines and agreements for this trip worked out in advance. Just remember that guidelines are designed to be flexible, unlike rules.
If decisions are made and put on the list, and at a later time someone needs things to be different, then make agreed-upon changes. If during the vacation one or more of the guidelines proves unacceptable, throw it out. The guidelines are to serve you by helping things go more smoothly, you are not there to serve them.
The following is a list of some possible areas of disagreement to be worked on in a family meeting or a series of family meetings:
- Whether you drive at night, or during the day
- Whether you stop frequently or drive straight through (with small children, planning for frequent stops can make things more pleasant)
- Whether you eat during your driving time or stop and eat (if you eat during driving time, it makes things easier if you have this well planned; making sandwiches on your lap can be messy and frustrating)
- What kind of foods and beverages you are going to have
- Whether the person driving minds being involved in the games or conversation
- How you’re going to decide about music or story tapes. (Many years age, driving with five children and four adults in two cars, one of our most rewarding expenditures was to buy cheap, on-sale Walkmans for everyone. This made long hours of driving easy and pleasant. The driver got to listen to the car radio or tape deck.) There are many possible ways to work this out, but if you do it beforehand it can make things easier.
- Who sits where and when
- If pets come along, how they will be cared for and who does what
Make up a list of games and activities so that when someone needs something to do you don’t just have to rely on your memory. You can also have with you what you need: paper, pencils, markers, books, etc. You might even make a trip to the library to look up books on this topic. All the family members might ask their friends for suggestions, and add them to the list.
If it is possible, and if any of you would like this, arrange for one or more of you to lie down during the trip. It can make all the difference in the comfort of everyone. If someone is tired or just needs to stretch out, having that as a possibility can make life easier for them and for everyone else, too.
Realize that all your preparation can help, but that life is full of the unexpected. It is during these times that being practiced at cooperating as a family can bring satisfying results for all.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Karen Ryce, the Miracle Worker of Education and Parenting, has used the Power of Respect for more than 35 years. She started a Montessori school in 1973, gives talks and workshops to parents and teachers.