Positive tips to help ditch the devices for a stress-free family road trip

September 19, 2023 | Triple P News

3 min read

The school holidays are here and whether it's a day trip or a longer adventure, Triple P – Positive Parenting Program experts have got you covered with simple strategies to reduce the road-trip screen time, avoid the familiar cries of ‘are we there yet?’ and supercharge your family connection.

Triple P International Country Director, Carol Markie-Dadds, said going away as a family helps everyone to build lasting memories and spend quality time together. But long hours in the car can test even the calmest of parent’s patience even before you make it to the end of the driveway!

“While using a device to occupy kids can sometimes seem like a godsend for drivers, there are ways you can rethink how to make the time pass and enjoy spending time together as a family while you're at it,” Ms Markie-Dadds said.

“The easiest way to reduce that screen time is to think ahead and swap that time kids would normally spend on a device with something else like playing a game or singing, so your child can engage their brain in different and new ways whilst also tapping into your family’s fun side. It doesn’t necessarily mean ditching the screen entirely, but a few small tweaks can help to boost everyone’s mood and energy levels.”

“If the thought of going screen-free makes you nervous, try setting a screen time holiday schedule,” Carol says.

"Australian guidelines suggest children aged 2 to 5 years old should have a maximum of one hour of recreational screen time daily, and 5 to 17-year-olds should have a maximum of two hours. This isn’t always realistic or possible though, so try finding a relaxed moment to chat about screen time before your trip starts so the expectations are clear. Maybe it’s about coming up with a plan to use screens for a certain section of the trip, instead of on and off for the entire journey. A little planning ahead can go a long way,” she said.

Triple P says keeping children happy over long distances can be a challenge, but the number one thing to remember if things aren’t going well is to stay calm and get in early by redirecting them as soon as you see signs of trouble.
With this in mind, Triple P is offering tips on a positive approach to school holiday adventures with practical, easy-to-use strategies.

Triple P’s top 5 tips for a positive road trip:

  1. Plan ahead. Kids are more likely to whine or act out enroute if they’re not included in some basic planning of the trip. If it’s a long journey, you could show them a map or talk about some of the things you’ll see along the way. A grumbling tummy usually means grumbling kids, so make sure they’re fed and hydrated before you get on the road, and pack plenty of snacks that are easy to unpack and eat.
  2. Set some expectations upfront and include your children in the decision-making. Together, decide on two or three simple rules you’ll try to stick to as a family, such as “use a quiet voice”, and “keep your hands and feet to yourself”. Ask your child what the rules are to check their understanding.
  3. Be prepared with a ‘bag of tricks’. Think: activity books, colouring in, paperback books, a soft toy. And like every great magician, try not to reveal everything immediately. Stagger the time you give them out to avoid boredom.
  4. Take regular breaks. For longer car trips, plan regular rest breaks so kids can stretch their legs and have a run around. Drivers should make sure to look after themselves too.
  5. Have fun! Car trips can be long, but they’re also a great opportunity to laugh together and enjoy each other’s company with some tried-and-true games. Try “spotto” – where everyone looks out for a yellow (or other colour) car, or a few games of eye spy. Let the kids choose some music or an audiobook – when children have some input into family decisions like these, it can boost cooperation.


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