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Three kids in car seats in the back of a car

Family Road Trip Worries

By: Z. Andrew Jatau MS, LPC

I find driving a great stress reliever. After a long day at work, I enjoy listening to music with my windows down while weaving through traffic on the drive home. Of course, that’s when I’m driving alone. Driving with my children has the opposite effect on me. Due to the unpredictability of my back-seat passengers, my level of anxiety increases – even short trips make me a bit anxious. A series of thoughts run through my head whenever we pile into the car: Will they sleep the whole time? Is Keira going to need to go potty while we’re on the highway? When is she going to stop asking questions while I’m trying to drive? What if they both start crying at the same time? And, I definitely can’t listen to my songs with the kids in the car!

Most of our immediate family lives in Ohio, so we try to visit a few times a year, usually during the holidays. Over the years, we’ve adjusted the way we make the trip with Keira. We’ve done the whole drive straight through, stopped at a hotel halfway, or most recently, made the drive completely overnight. Each is challenging and stressful in its own way. After Eliza was born, I jokingly vowed that we were never going back to Ohio. Even though I said it playfully, I actually couldn’t imagine making the trip with two small children considering I can’t handle more than a 20-minute drive around town.

My nerves were put to the test last month when we decided to take a family trip to Chincoteague Island for a brief vacation. I was excited to visit Chincoteague, but I was not looking forward to the two-hour trip to get there. We prepared diligently. We packed books, toys, and nursery rhyme CDs to keep Keira content on the drive. Eliza was the wildcard. Since we hadn’t traveled with her, we didn’t know what to expect.

The trip started off in the rain, which slowed down the traffic. Eliza got fussy with all the starting and stopping. Eventually, the highway driving smoothed out, and she fell asleep. As with any sleeping baby, I wasn’t quite sure how long she’d nap, so I was still a bit on edge. I was also listening for any warning signs of distress coming from Keira’s side of the car.

To my surprise, there weren’t any, and they both did great the entire drive. Eliza slept the whole way, and Keira was able to keep herself entertained without needing to stop for a bathroom break at all! The drive home was even better. Eliza stayed asleep the whole way, and Keira even took a nap for half the trip.

My girls came through in a big way! Now, let’s see how they do on the trip to Ohio this summer. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Of course, it is important to have children in the correct car seat for their age and size and to have it properly installed. For more information, check out CHKD’s car seat safety page.

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About Z. Andrew Jatau, LPC

About Z. Andrew  Jatau, LPC

Z. Andrew is a Licensed Professional Counselor and the founder of Mylemarks, an online company that develops social-emotional resources to use with kids and teens. Through that company, he creates content such as digital downloads, workbooks, and children’s books. He’s an adjunct professor in the Human Services department at Old Dominion University, and serves as the Fatherhood Consultant for CHKD’s Dads in Action program. When he’s not working, he enjoys spending time with his family, cooking, and listening to music.