Before you go:
- Ensure you have a supply of ‘gifts’, such as a small teddy or hair clips wrapped up for those tricky moments. The distraction of unwrapping may be just enough to postpone a potential meltdown.
- Anticipate what children need before you set off on your journey and ensure that their games and car safe toys are easily accessible. Check that there are no choking hazards at arm’s reach of small children and avoid anything that can be used as a missile/weapon against a parent or sibling.
- Explain to children that driving needs concentration and that safety takes precedence at all times: no matter how ‘urgent’ their needs may be, sometimes it is necessary to ignore them.
- Breaking up the journey is essential: it is best to take a 20-minute stop for every two hours on the road, both for the children and to give the driver a well-earned rest.
On the Road:
- On a long journey children need to have access to drinks or snacks. Make sure they are easy to reach, handle and hard to spill. Bite-sized snacks packaged in individual containers are the easiest and safest to deal with while on route.
- If you have a child prone to car sickness, where they sit can make a difference. Move anyone feeling queasy to the middle seat in the back so they can focus clearly on the road ahead. Ginger biscuits before the journey will help prevent nausea, but just in case it all goes horribly wrong it is always a good idea to be prepared with a waterproof bag and a clean-up kit. Include a change of clothes, paper towels, anti-bacterial hand wipes, upholstery cleaner and a towel to cover the cleaned seat
- A good way to keep peace in the car is to assign the older child the task of keeping an eye on siblings. This fosters a sense of responsibility in the older child.
- Reward good car behaviour: stickers, praise and a little extra of what your child enjoys goes a long way.
- Ensure that there is no sun or glare in your children’s eyes as this can cause them to be irritable; a glare-reducing window screen is a good solution.
Geraldine Herbert has been a motoring journalist for over fifteen years and is Contributing Editor and Motoring Columnist for the Sunday Independent and editor of wheelsforwomen. A jury member for the Women’s World Car, of the Year Geraldine is also a contributor to Good Housekeeping magazine and a regular commentator on consumer and motoring matters on RTÉ Radio One, Newstalk, TodayFM and BBC Radio