Driving with Kids, Oh Boy!


As was previously published in Island Parent Magazine

I’ve been saying for years now, driving with children has to be one of the worst distractions for drivers.

Especially on a bad day with crazy, sugar hopped-up kids or major meltdowns. Maybe not so much on a really good day, but the majority of the time, it is.

I will never dismiss the dangers of driving while texting or chatting on the phone.

I find it similar to the distractions of spending too much time looking for your favourite song, for example or bending down to pick up that piece of muffin that fell by your foot and gas pedal. 

However, for me nothing compares to two children freaking out or fighting with each other in the backseat while you’re commuting.

Imagine high-pitched screaming, your child kicking the back of the driver seat, feeling that impact over and over on your back when you’re behind the wheel, your other kid throwing objects, the sound of those objects hitting the door panel, turning around to grab that object and take it away, and some more yelling as a result, say while driving downtown Victoria almost turning left on a busy one-way street, or merging onto the Pat Bay highway during the commuting hours.

Big breath.

Even just writing about this for this column is giving me anxiety.

This is something that many parents can relate to.

Even parents with newborns, especially babies who hate being in their car seats and scream bloody murder the entire drive, can relate to this.

I can’t count how many times this past year I’ve had to pull over and wait till my children stopped fighting or screaming.

That leads me to some tips and ideas I’ve come up with on how to manage these distractions.

· Crank Ob-la-di, ob-la-da (my kid’s favourite Beatles songs) or your child’s favourite tune, to drown out the yelling and distract from whatever was causing the yelling in the first place.

· Pulling over. I know I already mentioned this, but it’s important. When you know what is hitting the fan, the best solution is always to pull over (if it’s safe).

· When pulled over, take three big breaths. Let it all out. Practice that dragon breath, the breath of fire the yogis do. When you’re feeling calm, then cruise back onto the road.

· Also, while pulled over, depending on how rotten your children have been, you may go as far as to tell them if they don’t stop they will have to walk home, or spend the night in the woods (if you’re really mean like me).

· Try to eliminate objects that can be thrown for obvious reasons. It’s less items you will have to turn around to pick up when they drop them as well, which is another huge distraction.

· Play travel-friendly kids games. For a good while there, Jack, Audrey and I would each choose a colour of vehicle and would get a point for each colour we saw drive past us and whoever had the most points by the time we reached our destination won… Jack always picked white. He’s very smart. Audrey hasn’t quite caught on yet and would often choose pink. Eye spy works well too. Plus, it gives me a big smile every time Jack says, “Eye spy with my big little eye…” in his cute little voice.

· Avoid eating while driving as well. It helps save on big messes in the car, but more importantly, it’s also less distracting. Just imagine: “Mom, my yogurt tube squeezed out all over my shirt… clean it up now… I need a napkin!”

· If you’re travelling far, make sure to break up the trips with a few stops. Whenever I’ve travelled up island to visit family, we always choose a few destinations with bathrooms, food and a park close for the kids to stretch their legs.

· Devices. As much I hate how easily my kids can get addicted to devices. If you’re like me and have anxiety driving in the city, the best solution is allowing your child to watch a show on the iPad for some quiet time. Jack loves playing “DJ” and choosing songs from my phone and that’s OK with me, although we often end up listening to Fitz & The Tantrum’s HandClap song way too many times.

Be safe out there! I would love to know what works for you. Please feel free to comment below! 

Ashley Degraaf