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The Letdown Season 2: Delivering Babies Or A Reality Check?

Note: this post contains reference to abortion and might be difficult to read.

Last year I wrote about how the Letdown Season 1 provided a reminder to us parents that we are not alone in the challenges we face.  Like many others I have chatted to about the show, I saw so many of my own experiences reflected in that first Season.

I could also make a long list of the scenes from episodes 1 and 2 of Season 2 of The Letdown, currently airing on the ABC, and add a “just like me” comment to the end of those too.

But the early episodes of Season 2 do that and so much more.

Significantly we learn that women just like us and families just like ours can face the difficult decision to terminate a pregnancy. And that women just like us and families just like ours indeed do terminate.

It provides a reminder of the diversity of our stories and challenges us to think about abortion as not just someone else’s issue. 

Audrey (Alison Bell) in Season 1 is me with my eldest (Little Mate) as a newborn: struggling to work out where I belong. Struggling to work out sleep strategies. Struggling to chart my own parenting course. And Jeremy (Brendan Cowell) is Damien: soothing, calming, understanding, supporting. At the end of Season 1, Audrey and Jeremy are us when they find out they are pregnant again and on track to have two babies under two.

Season 2 starts with the same level of familiarity. The setting is Stevie’s first birthday party:

There I am finishing a birthday cake with lashings of buttercream icing and lollies at 1am in the morning – actually it’s almost 3am and it’s Little Mate’s 5th birthday I’m cramming for – disaster struck earlier when the rocket ship of sponge rolls failed to stand vertically (yes, two cream-filled sponge rolls, one on top of the other). Not possible it turns out…

There we are considering questions about party entertainment… Sugar-filled or sugar-free baking? Alcohol for the adults (who’s party is it anyway?) For Dames’ 5th birthday, I spent weeks on the party bags, to the point where I had kilograms of soap sent from WA for me to melt and set into shapes with a plastic dinosaur inside…

There I am with visitors arriving before I’ve had a chance to shower and do my hair the way I want it…

It’s a look from the outside in and it is hilarious. It feels normal. It feels like my experience. I know it.

But while I’ve got one eye on the fun and hilarity and the trip down memory lane, the other is on Audrey: her abdomen, her demeanor, what she’s eating, what she’s saying (just a bit like the tabloids dissecting every glance, every move a couple of very famous Duchesses have made over the last few years)…

Yep, I’m looking for signs that Audrey is pregnant.

We see Audrey drinking champagne and eating what appears to be soft cheese at Stevie’s party. And I think: well the drink is okay – the contemporary guidance permits an occasional one when pregnant. That soft cheese, though Aud, I’d definitely steer clear of that.

We see a flash back to a discussion between Audrey and Jeremy about Audrey’s doctor’s appointment. With all the complications from Stevie’s birth, we learn that this pregnancy is high risk. And I think: you’ll need a highly experienced OB Audrey, love. Let me know if you need any recommendations…

Later we hear Audrey ask Jeremy: “Did we do the right thing?” and are left hanging on for episode 2. And I wonder: what “thing” was it?

As episode 2 progresses, the signs that Audrey and Jeremy have decided to terminate their pregnancy mount: Audrey donates her maternity jeans; Audrey talks about needing a distraction and is more confused and indecisive than usual; and, there’s a flashback scene involving Audrey selecting a movie that includes an abortion in the storyline.

But, honestly, for me it takes Audrey to give us the statistics – that 1 in 4 women terminate a pregnancy and the majority of those women are mothers – for the penny to really drop…

Followed by a denial from Audrey though, there’s a small part of me that still thinks perhaps that penny’s still wobbling on the edge…

Why does it take so much for me to see it?

I think it’s because choosing to have an abortion sits uncomfortably: not with my beliefs necessarily, but with my experience. I see Audrey just like me and Audrey and Jeremy just like us. And yet, we have never considered an abortion. And I have never personally known anyone to have had an abortion either.

And that is the absolute genius of The Letdown in the first two episodes of Season 2 – it demonstrates to us that people (and families), including people (and families) like us, terminate pregnancies.

We aren’t told what to think about abortion in The Letdown (indeed the program offers a variety of viewpoints and perspectives). Instead we are encouraged to think about it and to think about it not just as someone else’s issue.
The Letdown Season 2 is currently on ABC – 9pm Wednesdays. All 6 episodes are also available now on iview.

 

I hope it is entertaining but also thought-provoking viewing for you. I would love to know what you think and whether in viewing it you shared my experience.

Lauren x

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When a baby sister dies: talking to kids about death


Note:

  1. This post contains reference to stillbirth. It might be difficult to read. Please read it only if and when you are ready.
  2. This is one family’s story. I encourage you to seek help in the context of your own circumstances.

Tragedy. Crime. Death.

We shelter our kids from these topics and other cares of the adult world to let them “be kids” for as long as possible. We turn off the news. We discuss after bedtime.

But what happens when death visits your immediate family?

In 2013, Susannah Rose’s second child was stillborn at 38 weeks gestation.

How Susannah and her family enabled their two year old daughter to experience the loss of baby Clementine, and how they continue to acknowledge and honour Clementine, is all at once both heartbreaking and inspirational.

This is Susannah’s story.

Susannah’s story

Lauren Gardiner (LG): What is the background to your experience?

Susannah Rose (SR): Our first child, Eleanor, was born in 2011. The pregnancy was relatively problem free, and I had a water birth. It was all that we had hoped it would be.

In 2013, I was pregnant again with our second child. Because we’d had a relatively problem free experience the first time, we went into it feeling positive.

I just thought… I’m pregnant and so, in nine months, I’ll have a baby!

However, my second pregnancy was more complicated than my first.

Two weeks before my due date, I felt our baby, a little girl, had stopped moving. The hospital later confirmed that she had died. It was such a shock for us. I had heard of stillbirth, but I didn’t know that it was a possible outcome. Scans had identified that she was a particularly little baby, but everything suggested she was otherwise perfectly fine.

Eleanor was only two when our baby, named Clementine, died. We had read lots of books preparing her to be a big sister, I was visibly pregnant, and the nesting was complete.

LG: But then the baby suddenly wasn’t coming home. Not ever. How did you approach it with Eleanor?

SR: After Clementine was born, our midwife arranged, at our request, for a photographer from Heartfelt, a volunteer organisation of professional photographers that photograph families that have experienced stillbirth, premature birth or have children with serious and terminal illness (for more see https://www.heartfelt.org.au/) to take photos of Clementine.

We were asked if we wanted to include Eleanor in the photos.

Initially we said, “No.”

We thought it would be too much. Too confronting. Too difficult for her. Too upsetting. We wanted to protect her from the reality of the situation and our grief.

But our midwife, who was very experienced and knew us well, encouraged us to think about what the photos and the experience of meeting Clementine could mean to Eleanor.

In the end, we decided to invite Eleanor to be a part of the photo session.

And Eleanor wanted in.

The photographs, some of which include Eleanor holding Clementine, are especially beautiful and precious. They are really all we have to remember the short amount of time we had with Clementine.

And as it has turned out, the photos are incredibly special to Eleanor. It’s through the photos that she has a real connection to her sister.

E, S and C
Eleanor holding baby Clementine.

LG: How did you explain Clementine’s death to Eleanor?

SR: The same midwife prepared us to talk with Eleanor.

We were advised to share information that was appropriate to her age and to be guided by her and any questions she asked. For Eleanor at two years of age and in our circumstances, this meant:

  • explaining things simply and literally. Explaining that Clementine was “asleep” or “had gone to heaven” could have been confusing because Eleanor might have wondered where heaven was or why we couldn’t just go and get Clementine. Instead we talked about how your heart beats and that is how you know you are alive. We talked about how when a person dies, their heart stops beating. Eleanor could feel her own heart beating. She could hear it too. And then we talked about how Clementine’s heart had stopped beating and we couldn’t feel or hear her heartbeat. And this meant that Clementine had died;
  • being honest about the things we didn’t know – like why Clementine had died; and
  • answering Eleanor’s questions in a simple, honest and literal way. For example, Eleanor asked about where Clementine had gone. Given her age, we didn’t offer complex answers or attempt to philosophise with her. We shared our beliefs in very simple terms. We also explained that different people believe different things about what happens after someone dies.

Reading age-appropriate books about death to Eleanor also really helped us. We especially liked ‘When Dinosaurs Die’ and ‘Life is like the Wind’.

LG: Did others have different views about involving Eleanor in the grieving?

SR: Like our initial response, my Mum and Dad’s first response was – we need to get the car seat out, we need to pack up the cot, we need to get rid of all the things that were ready for the new baby because it is too upsetting.

But they were actually really open to the written guidance provided by our midwife (she gave them a leaflet prepared by Sands (https://www.sands.org.au/), a charity that supports people through miscarriage, stillbirth and newborn death) which encouraged an inclusive and open approach, to the point that once Dad had done everything in the brochure, he asked if there was another one!

LG: Did you show your emotions in front of Eleanor?

SR: I was in so much shock and so completely overwhelmed that I didn’t show much emotion or openly cry very much in the beginning.

The few times that I did get upset, I did try to hide this from Eleanor. I didn’t want her to feel scared or worried about what was happening.

But I know now that it can be confusing for children if we hide grief or sadness from them because they have fine-tuned emotional radars.

It’s taken more than five years and some counselling for me to finally allow myself to begin to feel the sadness of losing Clementine and to grieve our loss. Now I feel like it is okay to let tears come in front of Eleanor and Patrick.

I also believe that it’s important to show my children that it is normal and okay to feel sadness. It also gives them the opportunity to learn how to respond to someone who is sad.

LG: Five-plus years on, Clementine lives on in your family. What do you do to remember Clementine?

SR: The anniversary of Clementine’s death, which is also her birthday, is very difficult, both in the lead up and on the actual day. However, it is very important to me to acknowledge that day and it has become a family tradition to acknowledge it.

For Clementine’s fifth birthday last year, Eleanor took it upon herself to set up Clementine’s special birth photos and candles, a bit like a prayer circle at school. She had music and she led a prayer. It was very important to her.

Clementine would have started school this year. Eleanor asked a Prep teacher if Clementine’s spirit could join this year’s Prep class. The teacher was so lovely and responded so beautifully. Eleanor also took a teddy bear to school at the beginning of the year. This teddy is special as she was given to us when Clementine died. Eleanor took the teddy bear to school with her for a few weeks as her way of representing Clementine coming to school with her.

LG: Patrick was born in 2015. Does he also understand what happened to Clementine?

SR: Patrick is nearly four now. We’ve found it much more difficult for Patrick to understand the concept of having a sister that he has never met. When Eleanor organised the prayer circle on Clementine’s fifth birthday, Patrick had only just turned three and he found this confusing.

LG: Perhaps it’s easier talking to children about death when a person is old and sick, because the child is not old (and hopefully not sick). Does Eleanor worry about death?

SR: No, I don’t think so.

Eleanor has, from time to time, asked why Clementine died. And together with explaining that something went wrong in an age appropriate way, we’ve also talked about the fact that normally things don’t go wrong, and most babies are perfectly fine. So, Eleanor believes that most babies are perfectly fine (which is true). It’s also reinforced by her reality – she doesn’t know anyone else with a stillborn sibling.

LG: So, coming back to the “let kids be kids” idea, your experience suggests that it’s not a blanket response to protect and shield our kids from death and sadness. What do you think?

SR: I think that the idea might lead us to try to create a false reality for our children.

I think it is confusing and disorienting for children if we try to pretend that everything is fine when it isn’t.

I believe we need to use age-appropriate language to help children make sense of what has happened. I think books, like the ones I talked about earlier, can be very helpful in doing this.

We need to be able to support our children with their emotions and for them to know they can talk to us about what they’re feeling. I also think that as our children grow older, they may process the loss in a different way so the support we offer them needs to be ongoing and to evolve over time as their needs change.

I’d recommend seeking professional help if you’re feeling unsure about how to talk to your children about what is happening or has happened. When you’re trying to process your own experience and the feelings that go along with that, I think that guidance from an experienced professional can be invaluable.

More information about stillbirth

Stillbirth is when a baby dies before or during birth and can occur at any time from 20 weeks until full term (40 weeks) or later. While relatively rare, six babies are stillborn every day in Australia. (Stillbirth Foundation Australia, https://stillbirthfoundation.org.au/stillbirth/)

For more information, see:

  • Stillbirth Foundation Australia, a charity dedicated to stillbirth research – https://stillbirthfoundation.org.au/stillbirth/
  • Still Aware, an Australian stillbirth awareness charity – stillaware.org
  • Sands, a charity providing support, information and education to people affected by the death of a baby before, during or shortly after birth – https://www.sands.org.au/
  • Red Nose Australia, an Australian charity that aims to save the lives of babies and children and support people impacted by the death of a child – https://rednose.com.au/
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Toddler at the “Wheel” and Other Reading Aloud Hurdles

I need no encouragement to read aloud with my kids.

Parenting and literacy experts recommend it. Research supports it. Government programs like the Victorian Government’s Baby Bundle are based on it.

But I need not look that far.

Reading aloud with my kids creates calm after a big day. It gives us an opportunity to snuggle, bond and have fun together.

With a book in hand we’re no longer caregiver and dependent, rather joint adventurers on a journey that unfolds page by page.

The academic benefits of reading aloud to our children have also been demonstrated to me first hand. My eldest son’s reading skills advanced significantly after a holiday during which we (and not he!) read aloud chapter books most nights. Reading aloud also builds language and knowledge about the world.

But sometimes it’s hard. And, lately it’s been really hard.

There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Miss Gubby (22 months) loves books but likes to read them back to front or by skipping a few pages in the middle. She’ll often turn the page when I’m mid-sentence and even abruptly discard the book.
  2. Said toddler has also been interrupting read aloud sessions with her older brothers. The boys have even said “c’mon mum” or “keep reading mum” when Miss Gubby is in the middle of a deafening meltdown! But even if I were to persist, my heart would not be in it. She is tired by that time and wants my full attention.
  3. Finding the time. We don’t have a jam packed and structured after-school program and no compulsory homework. Nonetheless, by the time the kids play and the necessities (snacks, readers, showers, dinner etc) are done, there is little time left before bed. Stories can then feel rushed and the quality of the session, with less expression, fun and interaction, can be compromised.

We’ve faced other difficulties in the past too. One of our kids as a toddler went through a phase of throwing and ripping books. This seemed to occur more often at bedtime, when he was probably tired. Other kids can show little interest in reading and books.

I’m conscious that, as Mem Fox says in her book Reading Magic (Pan MacMillian, 2001, p 52), “[l]osing the joy means losing the usefulness.” She also says (p9) that “Reading aloud shouldn’t be thought of as a grimacing This-is-Good-for-Your-Child event for mothers and fathers.”

In this blog I share some ideas that may help address the problems identified above. Mention must be made of my friends who submitted some excellent ideas for developing a love of reading and books on one of my recent Instagram and Facebook posts. Most of these ideas have found their way into the below!

Hurdle 1: Toddler at the wheel and we’re “reading” back to front and upside down

Try:

  • accepting that the story won’t flow and being prepared to go off script, knowing that the child will still benefit from the experience:
    • read the pages in whatever order your child turns them
    • read the pages your child does pause on and, if they pause for some time, talk about the pictures too
    • interact with the text and the illustrations and ask questions / talk
  • reading books that don’t have a story (like first word books such as “101 First Words” published by Hinkler or “I Spy With My Little Eye: First Words” by Jeannette Rowe)

Hurdle 2: The multi-child juggle

Try:

  • welcoming interruptions so you engage all of your children in the read aloud experience. If pictures engage your less interested child, point them out as you read along and make eye contact to try to engage them in the story
  • giving your less interested child another activity to do in the vicinity of where you are reading so that they can move between the book and the activity and still hear the story being read (this tends to work for us sometimes!)
  • staggering bedtimes so you can read to one or a couple of children separately
  • putting each child into bed with a book to read or flip through independently and then visit each one separately for a one-on-one read aloud session (note may not work when you have a toddler!)
  • reading to a child/ren when the other one is in the shower or bath (in the bathroom if supervision is required!)
  • staging simultaneous read aloud sessions if you and your partner are both home (or a grandparent, other adult or older child is home)

Hurdle 3: Finding the time

Try:

  • to keep reading aloud part of your regular routine and grabbing extra opportunities to plug the gaps where the regular reading time doesn’t work, by:
    • keeping a book in your bag for trips to the doctor or to read while commuting or while waiting for breakfast or coffee etc
    • making age appropriate books accessible to your kids at home (eg on a low shelf or in your toy basket) so they can help themselves
    • reading with your child if they ask you to at any time (where possible)
  • take books on holidays with you
  • take advantage of times when you have visitors that can read with your children

 Hurdle 4: The book throwing toddler

Try:

  • choosing books that are more robust (board books, fabric books)
  • to accept that some books are going to get broken and tatty
  • keeping your very special books and borrowed books up and away and only bring them out when you think your child is less likely to rip them
  • reading at different times of the day (perhaps when your child is less tired)

Book 1

Hurdle 5: The child with less interest in reading and books

Try:

  • going to story time at your local library or local bookstore. Often a story time program will involve craft activities, broadening the scope of what might appeal to your child
  • allowing your child to choose the books they want to read without imposing your own judgment. Mem Fox in Reading Magic suggests not all books are good for kids (and may actually put kids off books and reading altogether), but also says “[a]ny book that a child owns and loves is a good book for them.” (p121)
  • modelling a love of reading and books yourself by reading in front of your children
  • reading in a different voice, singing some of the story or even acting it out
  • finding books that extend the experiences the child is having at home (eg read “Dear Zoo” by Rod Campbell after a trip to the zoo)
  • listening to audio books, which are not a substitute for reading aloud, but may build an interest in books and stories

And finally…

I think it’s important to acknowledge that on some days reading aloud may just be too hard, like:

  • days when there may not be enough hours in the day
  • days when your toddler may not settle into their bedtime routine, throwing out your reading time with your older kids

On those days, be kind to yourself and try again the next day!

Lauren x

PS: Have you experienced other difficulties reading aloud? Do you have other suggestions? I’d love to hear them!

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We’re Not Alone: The Letdown Season 1

The Letdown Season 1 (ABC/Netflix) is a brilliant comedy series about becoming new parents (and not just me thinks – it recently won an AACTA Award for Best Comedy Program!)

But it’s much more than just a funny and entertaining watch – The Letdown also exposes many of the challenges that parents face in the first weeks with a newborn. And in so doing it reminds us that as much as we can feel alone and isolated as parents, we are absolutely not alone.

Here are some of the themes in Season 1 that resonated with me:

A lot’s changed

“A lot’s changed,” says child and maternal health nurse Ambrose (Noni Hazelhurst) in the first mother’s group session attended by the series’ central character, mum Audrey (Alison Bell).

Well, isn’t that the truth!

Our life was turned upside down on the birth of our eldest child and rocked again, albeit a little more gently, when Dames and then Miss Gubby joined us.

Highest on the list of rude shocks for us was how our once intellectually stimulating relationship was reduced to talking about feeding, sleeping and pooing habits. And how about those 3am pyjama clad, slits for eyes discussions about whether to “go in”? If yes, then when? And for how long? And to do exactly what – pat, sing, cuddle and rock, breastfeed…again?

Coming in second was the mind-numbing exhaustion and the assault of hormones I felt. And how about that first experience of the baby blues? I was confused – surely, when everyone had said how exciting it was to be pregnant with a baby, the “baby blues” were made of cotton, size 000 and perfect for boys? But actually when the little guy arrived, I felt out of control, unable to do the Rolls Royce job parenting I was so accustomed to doing with everything else, worried about breaking this precious little bundle and a bit sad and frustrated to have left my old life behind (the days of drinking coffee at my own pace were over).

Alison Bell, The Letdown (ABC)

Parents: objects of public consumption and judgment

The mother’s group crowd around Audrey as she tries to breastfeed baby Stevie, with one lunging to physically assist and another reaching for her phone to take a photo.

The local drug dealer suggests Audrey try the footy hold breastfeeding position.

Audrey gets the evil eye from another mum for drinking caffeinated coffee while breastfeeding.

Yes, as a new parent, you’re fair game for the average punter. Prepare to be observed, advised, judged, reprimanded. And no need for said punter to know you, have a medical degree or qualifications in child rearing.

What is it with new life? Do people get a touch of collective baby brain within a 20m radius of a newborn? Why is it that people, who are usually so reserved and absorbed by their phones, suddenly look up and pay attention when they see a pram?

While most are well-meaning, albeit sometimes a little clumsy, it cannot be said for all. On a couple of recent flights, our kids couldn’t even put their tray tables down without attracting scorn from the woman in the seat in front (memo to her: you were young once too!) On the way back, we struck another who took a swipe at Miss Gubby within minutes of sitting down – apparently as a substitute for telling us with her words to be careful touching the back of her chair.

But in my experience there’s no need to wait until your little cherub arrives for people to take a step into your world uninvited – cue pregnant bump and they’re in!

In my third pregnancy I had very red cheeks from chronic rosacea and couldn’t apply foundation to hide it because my skin was desert dry. Already extremely self-conscious of it, someone asked if I was severely sunburnt!

And then of course there is the pregnant belly grope. I had to wait until my third pregnancy for one of those and boy was it uncomfortable. Even Damien didn’t touch my belly without invitation!

In my experience, people’s hands continue to wander once bubs arrives too – around the plastic rain cover, into your pram and onto his or her gorgeous cheeks, chin and mouth! And while they’re in there fossicking around, maybe they’ll tell you your baby is hungry or tired, having known your little angel for only moments!

The-Letdown-Alison-Bell-plays-Audrey-6107

Negotiating different beliefs and upbringings

A knock to the head from a falling pine cone reminds Audrey’s partner Jeremy (Brendan Cowell) of his promise to baptise baby Stevie a Catholic in his family tradition, made during the throes of Audrey’s difficult labour. But Audrey doesn’t believe in God.

Audrey objects to Stevie’s grandmother reading her “Babar”, a book from Jeremy’s childhood because it has imperialist themes and Babar is a dictator.

In many respects, Damien and I had very similar upbringings. We both grew up in small towns in rural Victoria. Our families lived modestly, we attended local schools and we didn’t want for much, though I would have liked a hyper-colour t-shirt in the 90s if the truth be told! But there are nevertheless differences in our childhood experiences that range from the particular Christian faith our families follow, to the tomato sauce we prefer (homemade or bought).

The Christian faith our children will be encouraged to follow was an uncontroversial choice and resolved for us long before we had children (we were married in the Catholic Church).

However, on a seemingly more mundane topic – dog ownership – there is more contention. I grew up with big drooling Labradors breathing in my ears and lounging at my feet. Damien on the other hand, whose mum is nervous about dogs and dislikes the drool and hot breath bit, never had a dog as a pet. He also harbours fears about dogs and small children. As the safety of our kids is high priority, it’s a topic we’ll revisit when the kids are older.

 

There’s a saying in my family that “it’s better to laugh than to cry”.

I cried a lot in the early newborn days.

But the Letdown Season 1 has squared the ledger – it gave me many laughs reflecting on those times.

And maybe it will for you too!

Lauren x

PS The amazing team at The Letdown are now working on Season 2. I can’t wait to find out what (or who!) comes next😊

All photos featured in this blog are courtesy of the ABC.

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Tips for Calm and Connected Car Trips

Taking a road trip this Christmas/summer holiday period?

Whether it’s to join family for Christmas dinner, to visit the beach or to do something more adventurous, most of us will be on the road at some point over the next month and clocking up a few kms.

With a backseat lined with youngsters, car trips can be a special form of torture. In the car, children can fidget, fight, whinge, scream and shout, need to stop at the most inopportune times and ask the “are we there yet?” question on repeat! Our kids generally do these things when the traffic is terrible or we’re about to do a tricky manoeuvre in an unfamiliar place – ie just when we really need to concentrate!

But while little travellers are always going to have their moments, it is possible for family car trips for the most part to be a calm experience for everyone involved. And not only that, taking a road trip with your tribe can be a great time to connect as a family.

My top tips for having calm and connected car trips with your family are set out below.

They’ve been road tested by our family of five on a road trip of just a few kms length… six thousand kms in fact! See the image at the top of this post – taken in Goondiwindi, a mere 1315 kms from Melbourne!

But before we begin, a bit more about the “connected” bit…

On our six thousand km epic adventure to Noosa and back last year, not only were the days of travel to get us from point A to point B, they were also a time for reconnecting with each other. We talked, listened to music, played car games, listened to audio books and sometimes just sat in silence and looked out the window (mostly silence only ensued when the kids were asleep!)

Not one video was played or YouTube clip was streamed while we drove. And, while we’re not against our kids enjoying some TV or other visual media at other times, we were keen to make the most of our time on the road as a shared family experience. To me, videos in the car are not a together activity because they are at best limited to backseat travellers and at worst limited to only some of them and they also tend to make our kids zone out of the world around them. Children can miss out on the scenery, the conversation and other goings on in the car (our Noosa trip involved some travel through the middle of New South Wales, through country that was so different to home).

Of course, we all do what we have to at various times with our kids.  Maybe use of a video device to placate your bunch, particularly when the driving is hard, might just do the trick for you. But for other parts of the journey, consider using the time to connect as a family.

In my view, audio books are in a different league to videos (and as such they are a feature of my tips below). Audio books can be enjoyed together as a family if played through the car. They also allow everyone to continue to engage with their surrounds.

Top Tips for Calm and Connected Car Trips with your Kids

  1. Pack a water bottle for each family member – it helps to keep everyone comfortable and hydrated.
  2. Have snacks ready – is a child ever as hungry as when they are in the car?  If you’re on an adventure like we were last year, having food with us was essential because we couldn’t rely on food being available where we needed to stop.
  3. Chat about what you can see and what experiences you have had and you have coming up. As a family, we’re practicing gratefulness at the dinner table. I’d like to keep this up over the Christmas and holiday period and I think our time in the car will be perfect for this. Ask on a daily basis: (1) what each member of the family is grateful for (yes, Mum and Dad too); (2) who they are grateful for; and, (3) what they are looking forward to on holidays/on the next day, etc.
  4. Top up your music playlist. Maybe think about the lyrics of your fav titles before adding them to your road trip playlist though – we made the mistake of adding Dido’s “Don’t Leave Home” song to our list last year. It played so much that our kids could recite some of the words. Not so good – it’s a song about drug addiction!
  5. Download a selection of audiobooks. While there are paid subscription services, you may be able to access some fantastic titles for free using your library membership. Our boys are right into the Zac Power collection of books by H.I. Larry and even Damien and I appreciate their suspenseful plots. There are classics too like some Enid Blyton books on my library’s list.
  6. Take breaks at sensible intervals.  Don’t push through if everyone’s comfortable without having another stop close that you can pull into. We got caught with this a couple of times and it resulted in frazzled children (and frazzled adults)!
  7. Have some fun car games up your sleeve for when the scenery gets a bit same-same, the kids get a bit restless or you need a change of pace. I like spoken games for car trips to manage the risk of car sickness. I also prefer games that don’t require resources – because they can get lost under seats!

Games for Calm and Connected Car Trips

The short slide show below includes some ideas for car games suitable for pre-school and primary school children. There are some classics that I am sure you have heard of, and maybe a few new ones too. Adapt as necessary to your children’s interests and capabilities. Of course our Miss Gubby is too young (18 months) to get involved in a lot of the games that suit our boys. That said, however, she loves to join in the laughter and fun!

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