A startling 62% of parents confess to being happier without their kids in the family car, while 43% admit to feeling anxious, irritable or simply angry when travelling with their children. In an age where family time is at a premium, this is a wasted opportunity for parents who could be making the most from close up time with their children.
Working with Peugeot on the study, expert Child Psychologist Professor Tanya Byron points to a number of highly effective and easy to implement ideas that stressed out parents can draw on in order to turn hours of angst and upset into quality family time.
“In order to ensure a happy holiday, it’s important to make sure the journey there can be part of the fun too,” suggests Tanya. “A stressful journey with whining and fighting kids can cause huge tension and lead to arguments and a bad atmosphere that can overshadow the holiday barely before it has begun.
“It’s only natural that being confined in a small space for a long time will lead children to become bored and in need of distraction and stimulation. However rather than leaving them to their own devices and allowing that frustration to build towards shouting and arguing, be one step ahead and prepare activities and games that will keep them occupied and their minds engaged.”
Even once the journey’s underway, there’s a lot that parents can do to keep boredom at bay and kids calm. While a worrying 60% of parents admit to lying to keep their children quiet and a further 71% confess to offering bribes of sweets to distract their kids, there shouldn’t be any need to resort to either of these potentially damaging quick fixes.
Tanya Byron goes on to say: “It is estimated that sustained attention to a task will range from about five minutes for a two year old to around 20 minutes for older children and adults. Given that children are frustrated by the lack of freedom in a car, it is vital that there are a variety of tasks and activities that they can engage with in order to reduce their frustrations and improve the quality of the long car journey for everyone.
“A car journey family tool kit should include activities and tasks that enable the following:
• Having fun!
“Time spent creatively preparing different activities and fun for the kids, with a variety on hand that can be rotated when the span of attention has finished, will ensure a smoother and happier journey for all. Try to vary the activities in terms of the senses engaged e.g. follow a memory game with a sing song which then leads into some creative play.
“Reward activities successfully completed with healthy treats and stickers on individual charts2, which can be exchanged for treats (a comic, pack of football cards etc.) during breaks in the journey.”
Are we nearly there yet?
Every parent will be familiar with the warning shot across the bow as wriggling children reach their patience thresholds and the first cries of ‘are we nearly there yet’ ring out from the backseat. Peugeot’s poll of more than 2,000 UK parents pinpoints 31 minutes into a long car journey as the moment when those fateful words can first be heard. And the first warning comes only two minutes earlier, 29 minutes into the average journey, as children first show signs of boredom, leaving parents little time to react if they haven’t taken steps already.
But the serious side to in car harmony is safety, as one in five parents say they have either had or almost had a car accident due to their children’s unsettled behaviour, making easy to follow tips and advice all the more important.
For Professor Tanya Byron’s full list of travel tips to make long car journeys something to look forward to rather than dread, visit www.peugeot.co.uk/arewenearlythereyet to download the free guide.