Is this the summer holiday that you qualify as a Zen Master, wafting around in a state of complete equanimity even while little Johnny puts a solitaire counter up his sister’s nose because she annoyed him and he wants to see how far it can go? Probably not. There will be moments, particularly during a long trip, that will get emotions rising, and so in this section of my Summer Holiday Survival Guide I’m aiming to share some tips that will hopefully help you to cope with a long trip with your child(ren). The ideas here are not just centred around mindfulness – I’ve aimed to make this a really practical bunch of suggestions, because you want practical stuff rather than me just telling you to breathe, right? Although breathing’s good, don’t forget to do that.
On the road …
You’ll no doubt have packed plenty of things for kids to keep themselves occupied with in the car, but there may still be times when boredom kicks in or when kids start arguing.
Snacks. Make sure you have plenty of low-sugar snacks with you. Feeding sugary snacks to a child in a confined space can be like lighting a firework in your hand and hoping it won’t go off! You probably keep sugary snacks to a minimum anyway, but sometimes service stations don’t stock anything particularly healthy, so having a box packed with things such as hard-boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes, little cheeses, fruit, nuts etc. can help to prevent emotional outbursts due to low blood sugar.
Make regular stops. Stop regularly so that the kids can stretch their legs and move about a bit. Perhaps even schedule a stop at a play-park or other attraction along the way so that kids can let off a little steam. Even if you don’t have time for a long stop, a brief stop to stretch legs at a service station can be enough to change the energy in the car completely when you all pile back in.
Be the peace you want to see. OK, the phrase is usually, “Be the change you want to see” so pardon me for switching it up a little, but your own energy on the trip is really important – if yours is peaceful then the journey will tend to be much more peaceful, if you’re feeling tired, on-edge and impatient then your kids are much more likely to play-up. If you notice yourself starting to feel a little wound-up, see if you can take your attention to your breath and maybe deepen it a little, then intend to ‘zoom-out’ from the situation; see if you can remind yourself that whatever you’re feeling or thinking in this moment is just an experience that’s moving through you. Perhaps you could even say to yourself in your mind’s eye, “softening” a few times, and invite your jaw to soften, your shoulders, your belly.
The suggestions above about snacks are still pretty relevant for plane journeys (except for making regular stops, obviously!) but it’s perhaps also worth mentioning that if you’re flying with young children then you may also have to deal with other passengers who are not sympathetic to your child’s crying (if your child, like I used to as a child, struggles with pain in their ears on take-off and landing).
Grumpy passengers. Firstly, please be aware that you’re not alone. Thousands of parents will be dealing with exactly the same kind of situation, right in the same moment that you’re dealing with it. And you don’t want to be contending with grumpy passengers, you want to be focusing on your child. Please remember that most passengers (many of whom will be parents themselves) will be absolutely on your side, but sometimes there’s the occasional other passenger who doesn’t deal well with your child’s crying or fidgeting, simply because it triggers something uncomfortable in them and they reject that uncomfortable experience rather than just allowing it. If a passenger is bothering you, please get an air stewardess to deal with them, and then you can concentrate solely on your child.
Helping your child (and you). You’re probably already aware that regularly sipping water throughout the flight as well as sucking dried fruit or a sweetie can be helpful in equalizing the pressure in your child’s ears, but if you don’t usually find these tricks work for your child then you might want to consider investing in flight ear plugs for them. They’ve certainly made my flights with my children a much more pleasant experience!
Wishing you wonderful travels and gorgeous adventure, wherever you may be heading to this summer.
Next time. You may be an endlessly patient parent or are perhaps lucky enough to have children who get on really well together, but for those of us who are not or who don’t, in the next part of this Guide (released in a few days) we’ll be looking at how to add to your ‘piggy bank of patience’ so that you feel better able to weather any difficult moments you encounter. I’ll also give you a preview of my BE.LOVE method for dealing with difficult moments, that I write about in my book ‘Awakening Child: A journey of inner transformation through teaching your child mindfulness and compassion’ …