WHEN CHILDREN FIGHT in the car, their arguments cause a potentially dangerous distraction for drivers. An Australian research team, for example, found that drivers with kids in the car are up to 12 times more distracted than drivers who use their cell phones behind the wheel.
STOP ARGUMENTS BEFORE THEY START
Savvy planning can help parents prevent on-the-road disagreements.
“Keep kids busy and alternate activities, so they don’t get bored,” says Jennifer Williams, OT, Rehabilitation Manager at HSHS Sacred Heart and St. Joseph’s hospitals.
Williams recommends parents give their children opportunities to run and play before the trip and during restroom breaks. Timing drives so they occur at night or when little ones would usually be napping is also helpful.
Children of all ages may enjoy watching a movie, using an app, or playing a game on a smartphone or tablet, but they shouldn’t be plugged in the entire time. Kids need to learn how to manage boredom and other emotions, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, and using technology to relieve boredom can prevent them from developing important coping skills. For screen-free fun, pack plenty of books, coloring books, and activity pads, listen to an audio book on the car stereo, and play games, such as “I Spy,” that tune kids into the passing scenery and surroundings.
Keep in mind long car rides can be especially taxing for children with conditions that interfere with learning and attention, such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. In these cases, Williams recommends sensory-based distractions.
“Pack items that children like to fidget with or snacks that are crunchy or chewy,” Williams says. “Some kids also like keeping a weighted blanket or weighted stuffed animal on their lap. All of these items can help children calm and regulate their bodies so car rides aren’t as stressful.”
Williams points out that traveling can also be stressful for parents and children are very aware of their parents’ stress level.
“It is important for parents to be aware of their own emotional state and use strategies that help them feel calm,” Williams says. “This can promote a more calm and relaxing environment for everyone in the vehicle.”
Choosing KidFriendly Apps
The American Academy of Pediatrics estimates more than 80,000 apps are labeled “educational,” but that doesn’t mean they all fit the bill for quality instructional entertainment.
Prior to downloading an app or game for family use, look for ratings that can alert you to any potentially violent or inappropriate content. In addition, preview the apps first to ensure the content is age appropriate and that young children are able to do the activity. This can help prevent frustration during the trip.
For information about pediatric therapy services at HSHS Sacred Heart or at HSHS St. Joseph's hospitals, call 715.717.7447 and choose the desired location.