5 Tips to Make Traveling With Kids Less Stressful

Traveling with kids could be an Olympic sport.  If you’ve ever tried to calculate how many diapers to bring for a week’s timespan, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Fortunately, we are done with diapers and our kids travel much smoother now, but there are some things I like to do before and when we travel to make our trip as stress-free as possible. Traveling with kids

  1. Car trash can.  I have a plastic cereal container (similar to this) that I use a trash can for our van.  I simply line it with a grocery bag and put the lid back on.  Not complicated at all and the trash gets contained.  Before I placed this in our car though, I went over how to use it with my kids.  I know it sounds simple, but I also knew that if I didn’t go over that with them, they’d still leave sticker wrappers and scraps beside or in their seats and the car trash can would just become another thing in our car.  It also doubles as a barf bucket in case anyone were to get sick.  So far, we haven’t had to use it for this (knock on wood), but I know it’s ready and available if need be.  I’d just take the grocery bag of trash out of it, hand the kid the container without the lid, and wash it out as soon as we could stop.  I know it’s gross to think about, but it’s a lot grosser to think about NOT having that barf bucket if you are ever in a sick situation.
  2. Outfits in Ziploc bags.  I absolutely love this tip.  When we went to Disney World, we flew and decided to only pay for 2 checked suitcases between the 5 of us.  One thing that made this so much easier was putting all of my kids clothes in 1 suitcase and putting each day’s outfit for them in gallon sized Ziploc bags.  My kids could easily pull out a baggie, take their own clothes out, and get dressed.  There was no having to match outfits in the mornings or getting one kid’s clothes mixed up with another’s.  All of the dirty clothes went back into the suitcase unbagged and clean clothes were kept nice and fresh in their Ziploc bags.  At the end of the trip, I could easily keep the empty bags in the suitcase and reuse those bags for the next trip as to not waste bags.  Side tip: You could also keep a Ziploc outfit in your vehicle for emergencies.  Another side tip…  We keep wipes in the van at all times too for easy clean up.

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    This is 3 kids’ worth of clothes packed into 1 kids’ suitcase for our week long trip to Disney.  All of their outfits are in gallon Ziploc bags, (kid 1’s are all on the left, kid 2’s are in the middle, and kid 3’s are on the right.) Light jackets are on top and shoes are tucked underneath.  PJ’s and undies are in the top zippered compartment. 
  3. Kids’ Travel Packs. Often times before a trip, we’ll give each of our kids a small bag that they can bring fun stuff in.  We tell them that this stuff has to occupy them in the car or on the plane (depending on our method of travel) and that they are responsible for these items.  If we’re in the car, all items must be back in the bag once we arrive at our destination.  If we are on a plane, the items in the bag have to be appropriate for air travel.  We allow them each to pack a snack or gum in these bags as well.  It makes them excited to travel and helps to occupy them on long trips.

    Adia Travel
    Adia’s travel pack is on her back in this photo.  We were delayed for about an hour before we could get on our flight and she just grabbed her kindle and was completely content waiting.
  4. No drinks in the van.  I know this seems harsh, but if we happen to go on a long trip, we’ll stop for a meal and they get plenty to drink.  If the trip isn’t long (less than 5 hours), I know my kids can go without drinks for that period of time.  Drinks cause them to have to pee, and with 3 kids, that could mean stopping multiple times at various points of our trip, meaning MORE travel time.  Occasionally, I will allow them to bring a small bottle of water.  We choose water because none of my kids guzzle it and therefore won’t likely need to stop every 30 minutes to use the bathroom.  If I allowed my youngest or my middle child to bring juice or milk, it’d be gone before leaving the driveway and we’d be stopping to use the bathroom 3 times in an hour.  I  promise they are not deprived and we provide our kids with plenty of foods and drinks, and if they need to use the bathroom, we always stop as soon as we can.  😉
  5. Clean up before you get up.  Even if we are just driving to school, I always have my kids clean up anything surrounding them in the car.  If I don’t, our van will collect food scraps, tubes of chapstick, toys, cups, papers, etc. faster than you can say, “mom van.”  I always tell my kids to clean up before they get up and I check that they do it.  This keeps our van so much cleaner each day and it has become part of our expectation and therefore, part of our routine.

 

 

Kid Chore/Responsibility Chart

Do you ever remember doing chores as a kid?  Or do you ever remember feeling like taking a shower was a punishment from Satan himself?  How dare your parents require you to bathe.  You swam today, dangit.  Didn’t your parents know that chlorine kills all the germs and that evenings were for playing, TGIF, and not putting the dishes away?  Then, it happened.  You grew up.  You got a job, a home, and kids of your own and all of a sudden, you realized why your parents not only needed a little help (sorry, Mom), but that they were really trying to instill in you the importance of taking care of your home, each other, and learning important skills you would one day need when you didn’t have Mom or Dad there to hound you to do it all.

But what if the evenings don’t have to come with nagging?  What if the activities leading up to bed put more ownership and responsibility on your kids and less stress on you after a busy day?  Well, it isn’t a perfect world, so I can’t guarantee your evenings will be stress free with a magical system, but I can tell you that coming up with a system has helped all of us in this house tremendously.  We aren’t perfect, and I still struggle inwardly when I look down the hallway and see my child playing with slime instead of brushing her hair, but I can tell you that I don’t yell at her for it anymore.  Instead, I let her fail.  She doesn’t beat her timer and then she’s a little down on herself.  That’s when we have a calm discussion – after the timer has gone off.  I go over her chart with her and I ask her to reflect on her behaviors.  It goes something like this:

Me: “Adia, I noticed you couldn’t circle your clock tonight.  What happened?”

Adia: “I don’t know.”

Me: “Let’s look at the behaviors you said you were going to try to commit to.  Were you silent?”

Adia: “Yes, but I played and it got me distracted, so I couldn’t beat my timer.”

Me: “How does that make you feel?”

Adia: “Sad.  I really wanted to beat my timer.”

Me: “What will you do next time so you can be happy when the timer goes off?”

Adia: “I’ll work harder during my chores so I can play later.”

I want my kids to see that their behaviors directly impact their success.  It’s a reflective habit that I want to help instill in them now, even with something as small as being efficient with a nightly routine.

The following were key for us:

  1. Know what your children are capable of.  They are capable of way more than what you’d think.  There are some things I KNOW they are capable of doing at these ages because I’ve modeled it for them, watched them do it correctly, and have given them praise for doing so.  For the things they have tried and haven’t done quite successfully yet, I still praise them for their effort and tell them we’ll keep working on some of those things together.  For example, Isla can’t vacuum on her own quite yet.  It’s still a little heavy for her and she struggles to work it correctly, so for now, we model it for her and let her have some tries each time we get it out.  For a list of some ideas to model with your kids, check out this link.
  2. Create a system that supports a no nagging policy.  When I made the chart below, I made it WITH Adia.  Prior to doing this, I set timers for my kids and they had a list of responsibilities to complete and check off, but they often times were not completing all of their responsibilities or we were constantly on them, which made it way more stressful for both us and them.  We decided to set a goal statement like this: “I will go from beating my night time timer on some nights to beating my night time timer every night.”  Then, we talked about behaviors that would help her meet her goal.  She named the behaviors below and we both agreed.  I told her when I gave her this chart that I would not give her any reminders (other than verbal time like, “10 minutes left”) and that I would not yell or raise my voice at all. I will be honest and say that this isn’t always easy, but it’s important.  I don’t want my kids to associate learning and hard work with feelings of inadequacy.

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*****Level 1 prizes are things such as stickers, glitter pens, glitter glue, fun pencils, etc.  Level 2 prizes are things like Dum Dum Suckers, a piece of gum, mints, small candies, etc.  Level 3 prizes are bath bombs, nail polish, my old makeup, lip glosses.  Star prizes are bigger things, but not necessarily expensive things.  They’re also things we often times do anyways, but it makes the kids feel pretty special to know they “earned” it…  stuff like making muffins with Mom, or Chick Fil a with Dad, or a spa day with me where I paint their nails and let them take bubble baths.  *****

3. Follow through.  If you show them that you value this process by reflecting on how they did with them each week and giving them the rewards they earn, AND you keep up with your end of the deal (no nagging, no reminders, etc.), they will learn to prioritize and value the system too.  Goals will be achieved when a successful system is in place.  If you have a goal that you aren’t achieving, whether it is with your kids or a personal goal of your own, you have to reflect on the system you’ve put in place.  If there isn’t a system, it likely won’t take off.  Systems require specific behaviors to take place, so we have to be willing to reflect on our actions.  For me, I view this responsibility chart as an opportunity to teach my kids about goal setting, learning from our mistakes, and trying to help them develop a growth mindset.  I don’t ever want them to feel like they aren’t good enough, but I do want them to celebrate their growth and always strive to keep growing.

Recently, I shared some about this on Instagram, which allowed some great questions to come my way.  I’ve decided to answer lots of those questions below.

Q: How old were they when they started their night time chores?

A: They have had night time chores for a couple of years and right now, they are 6 and 8, but we have only done it with this system for about the past 4-5 months.

Q: Does your son have any chores?

A: Our son is 3, and he does have some chores, but not like the girls.  He puts his dishes in the sink, trash from his meals in the trash can, carries his laundry upstairs, picks up his toys, etc. but he isn’t quite mature enough to do certain things on his own.

Q: How long do you set their timers?

A: Since part of the girls’ night time responsibilities includes showering, we set their timers for about 45 minutes to an hour depending on the volume of what they need to complete.

Q: Where did you come up with this?

A: I’m an educator, so I’ve done a ton with students with behavior charts, goal setting, and relationship building.  A lot of this comes from my teacher brain, trial and error, and some training on the book The 4 Disciplines of Execution, which is a great book all about how to achieve the goals you set.

Q: What if they beat the timer and the chores are not done well?

A: Prior to ever giving them this list, we modeled the chores for them, we did them together, and then we had them demonstrate the chore or responsibility for us.  I can’t expect them to do something to mastery if I’ve never taught them and allowed them to demonstrate their abilities to me (Hi there, Educator Mom).  For this reason, I know how to respond.  I know my daughter struggles to make her top bunk bed.  It’s hard to do.  Her level of ability (though not perfect at all) is ok.  I know she puts forth effort and I know how hard it is for me to make her bed, so I don’t expect it to look pristine.  However, I know she can clean off the kitchen table well.  There have been a couple of times when we’ve noticed that she didn’t clean it well or there were several crumbs left behind (even though we saw her wiping it off).  When she didn’t perform the task well, if the timer has not gone off and she tells us, “I beat my timer,” if we check and see that something is not done well or not completed, we will ask her to try again.  If she tries again successfully before the timer goes off, she can circle her timer on her chart.  If she doesn’t, or if we don’t notice until we check after the timer has gone off, we’ll ask her to clean it again and tell her she can’t circle her timer that night.

Q: What are their night time routines/chores?

A: Initially, we just made them a pictorial chart that we tucked inside of a page protector.  They would circle their chores as they did them with an Expo marker.  Eventually, it became so routine that they had them all memorized.  Our issue was just time and efficiency.  Here are their chores/routine:

  • Pick up all toys
  • Clean up their dishes after dinner
  • Clean the kitchen island and table
  • Help fold and put away all of their own laundry (including some of their bathroom towels)
  • Brush and floss teeth
  • Brush hair
  • Shower (every other night, but pretty much every night in the summer)
  • Put lotion on and get dressed
  • Clean the bathroom sink
  • Put dirty clothes in the hamper
  • Occasionally added: cleaning out ears, clipping nails, sweeping the kitchen floor, putting away dishes from the dishwasher, etc.

Accomplishments vs. Relationships

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We’ve all seen the minivans with “My Child is an Honor Student,” listened to others talk about how their kid was a reader before Kindergarten, seen pictures of the neighbor’s kid winning beauty pageants, and watched our coworker’s child score the winning shot at the basketball game.  All of these things are good things and they truly are something to be excited about.  I just wonder, as parents, how much we focus on the accomplishments rather than the relationships.

We even do it to ourselves.  We’re always seeking more.  Whether we want to climb the corporate ladder or gain more “likes” on a social media post, we strive to keep accomplishing.  But when we prioritize accomplishments over relationships, I think we miss the point.

Think about it…  Who do you want to be around?  Do you want to be around someone who has more jewels in their crown, or do you want to be around someone who will listen when you’re struggling?  Would you prefer to work with someone who is always trying to surpass you, or someone who is working alongside of you?  Do you want to marry the guy who makes 6 figures and comes home and props his feet up, or the one who works hard all day making half of what he is worth, but who will give all of the kids baths, feed them dinner, and sing them to sleep while you have some much needed time out with your friends?

When you talk to your kids, is the focus on accomplishments, or is it on how to have great relationships with others?  We sign reading logs, we pay for tutors, we do all the lessons – swim, cheer, football, all of it and there’s nothing wrong with those things.  In fact, I encourage so many of them and there’s a lot to learn when we focus on these types of skills.  Determination, perseverance, grit, goal setting, reflection, and so much more all can come out of these types of intense focus.  It’s good for us and it’s good for our character.  But while we’re doing all of that, let’s also talk about how to listen.  Let’s talk about empathy.  Let’s talk about putting the needs of others before our own comforts and enjoyment.  Let’s talk about giving up our turn so someone else can have an extra turn. Let’s talk about conflict.  Let’s talk about how we respond when something doesn’t seem fair.

Let’s remember that accomplishments should never require us to sacrifice relationships.

I’ve taught a ton of kids.  I’ll never forget their faces and I could definitely write a book on all of the hilarious things they have said and done.  Some of the most impactful kids I have ever taught were not the kids on the honor roll…  They were the kids who worked well with others, who loved to play and pretend and be themselves with whoever wanted to join.  They were the kids who weren’t afraid to share their ideas, but were glad to change their way of attacking a problem or conducting a project when they heard a better idea.  I’ve taught kids who would give up their spot in line at special events so the students with special needs could see better, be closer, or get the treat first.  There aren’t a lot of bumper stickers for this kind of kid, but this kid will be happy and fulfilled.

Sometimes, I catch myself wondering what my kids will be like when they grow up.  I wonder what kind of job they will have, if and who they will marry.  I wonder if one of them will be a musician, or if one might be a runner or an engineer or a writer.  I have to retrain myself to think a bit differently.  I also want to focus more on what kinds of acts of love they might show towards others.  Instead of wondering if one of my girls will look like me, or become a teacher like me, or play the piano like me, I wonder if they might adopt a foster child that needs a home, or if they might be someone’s date to Jesus Prom. I wonder if my son will rub his wife’s shoulders when she has a hard day.  I wonder if he’ll help the elderly lady put groceries in her car and be able to make friends with the coworker twice his age.  I wonder if my kids will know how to work well with others and if they’ll put others before themselves.  I wonder if they’ll smile at the shy kid when they pass him in the hallway.  I wonder if they’ll choose the kid in gym who never gets chosen.  Instead of wondering so much about the accomplishments they might achieve, I want to wonder more about the character they will have and how their lives might impact the world around them.

What do you want to accomplish?  Goal set and do it.  But more importantly, what kind of relationships do you want to have and how will you leave a legacy for all who know you?

 

 

Mommy Messed Up….. On Purpose.

Mommy Messed Up……  On Purpose.

I.  Lost.  It.  “It” being my sanity.  The event that tipped me over the edge that day wasn’t major.  It wasn’t major at all.  I wasn’t hurt and nothing terrible had happened to me or anyone I loved.  Up to this point, I had made a million mistakes as a mom.  Many were unintentional – just “mistakes.”  There’s a difference between mistakes and sins.  Mistakes are exactly that.  They happen on accident, because we don’t know any better.  I’m willing to bet that millions of us moms are willing to accept responsibility for our mistakes, but how often do we call out our own sins?  Or when we do, do we rename those our “mistakes” as well?  I don’t think “sins” and “mistakes” are in the same category.

The silly and petty thing that sent me over the edge was my 2 year old.  She had been potty trained for about 6 months when one day, she just started peeing her pants again.  Constantly.  I was watching kids in my home at this point and it was a brand new thing.  Looking back now, I know she was going through a potty training regression, which is extremely common when there is any kind of change in the home.  For 3 days, she peed her pants at least once per hour.  It blew my mind.  Potty training is a lot of hard work and I worked HARD at getting her trained.  She had been doing so well and all of a sudden, none of my rewards or consequences were working at all.

After peeing her pants for the hundredth time, I put her on the toilet, grabbed the sticker chart I had made for her on the wall, and tore it to pieces in front of her while yelling at her.  She looked at me with eyes full of tears, cowered, and cried.  It was at that moment when I thought, “I’ve just traumatized my child.  What have I done…”  I knew better.  I’ve taught kids all over and from all walks of life and I KNEW behavior management.  I didn’t care, and I lost it.

Part of me wanted to justify my behavior.  I’d worked so hard and I knew she was capable.  I was going through a lot with quitting my job, being a work at home mom, living in a new area that I didn’t know, and struggling financially.  All of those things were explanations for why I was stressed, but they weren’t excuses for bad behavior.

A small voice inside of me urged me to hold her, tell her I was sorry, and tell her I was totally wrong.  So that’s what I did.  I listened to the small voice and I held my small child on my lap in the bathroom floor.  I cried and I told her that Mommy was angry and Mommy was wrong.  Mommy would help her and Mommy won’t hurt her ears anymore.  I asked my little 2 year old girl to forgive me even though she didn’t have a clue what that word meant.  I knew she grasped the concept of forgiveness better than I did when she put her little arms around my neck and told me she loved me.  Isn’t that exactly what Jesus does with us?  Little ones are often times quick to forgive.  I don’t want my kids to lose that.

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I think a lot of us were raised to respect our authority and that part of that was accepting that our authority was always “right.”  I’ve had many teachers, leaders, and so forth who never said they were sorry and if they did, it was often for a “mistake” rather than being deliberately in the wrong.  It’s kind of hard sometimes to admit when we’re wrong to our children.  We want them to think highly of us and to think of us as their model for doing what’s right.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say that admitting and taking responsibility for when we are wrong, even when it’s embarrassing, is far more admirable than always being right.  It also models for our children the importance of accepting responsibility and learning and growing from our own shortcomings.

Admitting when we are wrong to our kids is good for all of us.  It teaches them to have mercy and forgiveness, models for them how to take responsibility for their actions, shows them humility, and how to have a growth mindset.  For us, we get a big dose of humility and a chance to learn and grow from our mistakes.  I’ve had the most growth and reflection in my life when I’ve messed up.  When I do something perfectly, I don’t have anything else to perfect.

Remove the veil.

I’m still doing things wrong.  They aren’t always “mistakes” either.  I nag my kids.  I spend too much time on social media and not enough time with them.  I don’t always show them grace.  A few weekends ago, I wanted my middle child to learn that the way she was talking to adults wasn’t ok.  I gave her consequences in an attempt to make her learn her behavior wasn’t acceptable.  In all honesty, it wasn’t acceptable.  But instead of focusing on motivating her to learn and grow, I focused on the punishment.  I could see my lively child beginning to change, but it wasn’t for the better.  I heard her crying in her room and I asked her why she was crying.  She told me it was because she knew she was a mean person and she didn’t want to be mean anymore, but didn’t know how not to be.

What if I had just left her to her own thoughts and had never gone back to check on my 5 year old?  What if all I cared about was that long-running consequence.  Would I have helped to destroy her character instead of building it up?

At that moment, I remembered the sticker chart incident.  I went and held her and I told her that I was sorry I left her alone.  I told her that I was like her when I was her age too and that I still struggle to respond out of love sometimes and instead, react out of anger.  I told her that I wanted us to help each other.  I told her that her behavior wasn’t ok, but that mine wasn’t either.  I told her there was nothing she could ever do that would make me stop loving her.

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The “spice” of our family.  Both of us.

I want my kids to see a solid parent.  I want them to look at me and think I’m strong and that I work hard.  That doesn’t mean hiding my struggles.  In fact, I think it means the opposite.  My husband and I try not to argue in front of our kids, but one of the most pivotal times in our marriage was when he told our daughters that he and I got in an argument and that he said something hurtful to me.  He told them why it made me sad, how it made him feel, and how he should have responded.  He was real with them.  Mommy and Daddy weren’t perfect and we didn’t have a perfect, fairtytale relationship.  We didn’t always see eye to eye and we can’t hide our conflict.  We have to learn from it and be better.  We used this incident to teach our children about conflict, humility, forgiveness, and honesty.  My daughters never thought poorly of him either.  They respected him more, and so did I.

My kids are still young.  That means I have a lot more sins and mistakes ahead of me.  I’m going to try to be better, but I’m also going to try to always be real.  I’m their mom.  I think the reason they see me folding laundry and washing dishes, working at their school, and taking them with me on errands 90% of the time (rather than seeing someone who is pampered and polished)  is because they need to see women who work hard and serve.   I don’t want them to grow up entitled.  I want them to roll up their sleeves and serve the ones they love.  I want them to love what they do and work hard.  I want them to mess up and grow.  I’m removing my veil of “perfect mom” and hoping they will remove their veils too, knowing that growth and learning has some of the best impact when it stems from humility and truth.

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My crew.