How to calm your child whilst on the go?

Summer’s in full swing, so it’s the perfect time for family outings and holiday trips with children. Although the prospect of the rest and relaxation is wonderful, the reality of journeys with children can put us off. A child’s never-ending crying and whining, our tiredness, and the dissatisfaction of our fellow passengers leave everyone feeling distressed and frustrated. However, all of this can be avoided by using these practical tips.

Unpleasant associations

Travelling with a child can be a real nightmare; unpleasant, stressful, and the journey seems endless. The child often cries and complains seemingly without reason, then gets nauseous, and finally tries to break out of the car seat, not wanting to sit calmly for any length of time. Why is it that our child turns into such a monster on a family trip? There may be many reasons for restless behaviour, so it’s good to examine them so you can recognize them. The difficult and unstable behaviour of our little passenger in a car, train or plane may often depend on their previous experience by these means of transport, and the very cause of crying may not be as obvious as hunger or thirst. After all, if children begin to cry before entering the car, it means that for some reason they have unpleasant associations with it.

Nausea and motion sickness

Before we begin to think about the less obvious causes of a child’s reluctance to travel, it is necessary to find out if our toddler suffers from motion sickness. Unfortunately, a small child cannot tell us what is wrong, which is why observation is so important in this case. Vomiting is the most common symptom of this malady, so if we want to avoid our child choking on stomach contents, we should stop the car when we suspect that it may be about to happen. However, if a small passenger doesn’t throw up, but is clearly feeling unwell, we should try to change the way of driving to a more fluid, slower, gentle steering as well as calm and thoughtful braking. We can also keep a weighted blanket on hand that calms and soothes the nervous system, helping your child fall asleep faster and sleep more effectively. It will also prove very useful on long journeys, where the toddler is not ill but can be restless or irritable.

Atmosphere while driving

Family trips for parents are associated with a lot of stress – we mustn’t forget anything, we are tired, and the process of getting ready for travel can make us want to stay home instead. Accumulated tensions can turn into open conflicts, which unfortunately end up being solved (or not) during the journey and in the presence of a child. If we often argue while driving, the child becomes stressed and starts to associate driving with bad feelings. Then, of course, the natural reaction is to try, at all costs, to not be in the car, even if there is no argument at that moment. Also, if one of the parents becomes enraged during the car ride, perhaps swerving, yelling or swearing at other drivers, rapidly braking or accelerating, this will inevitably cause distress to the child. In such situations, the child doesn’t understand the atmosphere, therefore intuitively wants to avoid everything related to it.

Traumatic memories

The obvious cause of hysterical behaviour on the road may be related to trauma, perhaps a car accident or loud trains passing by or sudden extreme braking in a bus. To ease the fear of these situations we need to familiarise the child with these means of transport. We need to have a lot of patience and empathy in this process. It is best to begin the familiarisation through play, so for example, allow the child to enter inside the car with the engine turned off, allow entry and exit through every door, even into the boot, then honk the horn, turn on the wipers and spray the windscreen with water. In this way, the child’s fear of the car will lessen gradually and remaining inside the car and the car itself will be associated with having fun together.

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