Many among us go on long drives either alone or with family. While planning is important, it’s vital to consider the comfort of those travelling. Kids, especially preteens i.e. children in the age group between 9- 12 years go through emotional and physical changes. They have frequent mood swings and often prefer privacy and freedom. In the book, Chicken soup for the soul, preteens talk about their preference of talking to their peers or friends over parents. A Preteen enjoys time best with kids his age and can get bored travelling with only parents or elders. As a parent, I know it can be difficult if your preteen gets sulky and irritable and may find the journey exhausting, stressful and unexciting. However, I also know that there are things that can be done to mitigate that possibility!
1) Involve and Plan: Check out the route map with your preteen and plan breaks, places to see, where to eat and so on. Pack their favourite snacks, but include healthy choices too! Get him to pack things that he thinks you need for the journey, but double check that you have: paper napkins, waste bags, water bottles. Pack some medication for nausea in case your child needs it. Let him choose his clothes and accessories, but remind him you have limited space only! If the child likes reading, pack books or a kindle. The idea is to involve the child during the entire planning process so he feels that he’s being actively involved in making decisions.
2) Comfort: Converse and catch up on his school and friends. Avoid loud conversations or jarring music when child is sleeping. Play their favourite tracks. Answer his questions patiently. Go for short walks during breaks to reduce muscle cramps. Go for ‘Pay and use’ restrooms which are likely to be clean. Make hygiene a priority when trying food from local outlets.
3) Tasks: Giving small tasks makes the kid feel responsible and independent. Help him to direct the journey using navigation tools. This will give an idea on landmarks, restaurants, educational institutions surrounding the area. Help him to pay toll booths tickets. Help the child to click photographs. Get your kid to place the orders at a food joint. Appreciate your child with encouraging words when he helps with a task. Quoting Denis Waitley, “The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.”
4) Mood Swings: At times, the child may get irritable or answer back. Remain patient and keep up his excitement on what awaits post the journey. Avoid conflict and give him space and privacy. A study at NIMHANS (National Institute of Medical Sciences), Bangalore, points out parents are no longer role models for the youth. At this age, they are highly influenced by their friends and peers. Get suggestions to buy small gifts for his friends back home.
As a parent, it can be overwhelming and tiresome to keep your preteen comfortable and entertained during the long journey but, be assured your child is picking up life skills. Sullenness and a tendency to argue is completely normal at this stage in their development and remember, you’re the adult, so make an effort!