As a relationship counsellor I frequently hear about moments of family strife, many of which seem to come at times which are ‘supposed to be’ wonderful and stress-free; such as setting off on holiday!
My two children are aged 7 and 4 and, being a British Army family, I have moved house 6 times in the past 7 years as well as taking numerous road trips and short breaks, usually to pass the time during weekends and holidays when my husband is away.
I asked myself, what is the secret of those parents who seem to take travelling their stride?
It goes without saying that we need to be well prepared before a long journey, I write two lists, one for items needed for the journey, and one of things we need once we have arrived.
The next most important thing is to watch our expectations of ourselves and our children during this ‘exciting’ trip. How old are your children? Are you expecting them not to need a drink, snack, the loo, and entertainment at inopportune moments whilst you are travelling? When our expectations of ‘having a perfectly wonderful time’ are unrealistically high we have already set ourselves up to feel disappointed and disillusioned when reality strikes – and it will!
Self-confidence is what drives our engine of emotions and during journeys there are many opportunities for our confidence to falter. It might only be a temporarily lost ticket, or a wrong turn that takes moments to correct, but we can instantly feel anxious that the journey is going to end in disaster.
When a situation appears to be more that we can cope with and our ‘engine’ falters, our physiological fight or flight instinct responds to the threat; we feel our heart start to race or our palms become sweaty, and out of our ‘exhaust’ comes familiar negative emotions such as stress, frustration or anger. We then have to choose how to react to these emotions and often, under pressure, we make ourselves ‘feel better’ or more in control by getting cross at those around us, especially our children or partner perhaps, or we get cross at ourselves, and all of a sudden our ‘happy journey’ seems to be crumbling around us.
How to stay calm…
Be prepared: Think about things which will help your self-confidence during the journey e.g. having the route well prepared, playing favourite music, wearing comfortable clothes and shoes that you feel good in, having favourite snacks and drinks with you, making time for rest stops and family fun along the way.
Have realistic expectations: Don’t expect everything to go perfectly, as Shakespeare says in Hamlet “there is nothing good or bad, but thinking makes it so”. If we expect some problems then we can choose not to interpret them negatively.
Don’t criticise others: It can be easy to ‘feel better’ by blaming someone else for something going wrong, but this isn’t fair or helpful. None of us are perfect and getting through a journey successfully is a team achievement. Bolster up your children and anyone else who is with you by maintaining their confidence and harnessing their support.
Don’t criticise yourself, it will just damage your self-confidence make the journey feel even harder than before, you can’t prepare for everything.
Say only positive things to yourself and your ‘team’: If something goes wrong and you start to feel stressed or agitated say out loud “We’re ok, this is just a blip, we can handle this”.
Take a moment: At times of stress close your eyes for a few seconds, breath in slowly and deeply, imagine a warm golden light pouring into your head and all the way through your body and out through your fingers and toes, this is instant self-confidence and I have used this technique anywhere and everywhere to survive many a stressful moment.
“The most important skill in staying calm is not to lose sleep over small issues. The second most important skill is to be able to view all issues as small issues.”
– Paul Wilson
Good luck and have a wonderful time when you get safely to where you are going!
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