Ask any parent of my generation as to how they created interest for the kids on long road trips – there were no iPads or iPhones with games of this or that ilk, rather parents needed to be creative and insightful.
But what I did read recently that almost sent me reeling off my old timbered office chair, wait for it, one in five children are being sedated to make long road journeys.
The Daily Mail reveals that a national driving survey analysed the travel habits of 3700 Australian families which demonstrated four in five families use technology to deal with bored children, giving them a hand held computer game, like an iPad, while another 70 per cent said they give their kids treats to sweeten the ride.
It went on to note that near 20 per cent of NSW families use a more extreme technique, admitting they have used sedatives like the antihistamine Phenergan to knock their kids out so their journey will be more pleasant.
The article details warnings about the use of drugs like Phenergan on children have been around since 2006 when the US Food and Drug Administration found the medication was linked to 22 cases of respiratory depression in infants, seven of which were fatal.
Quoted is Family therapist and child psychologist Michael Hawton who claims that the whole idea of heading off on a family holiday is to enjoy time together. "There's a big difference between entertaining your children and medically straitjacketing them," he said.
The only part of the article that reflects anything like the seventies and eighties was that around 56 per cent of drivers admitted to turning the music up to drown the children out with a further 64 per cent of parents claiming they have threatened children that they will stop the car and leave the unruly kids behind.
What did we do
When our four children were growing up, and we did plenty of road trips:
Initially from Sydney to
Maclean (northern coastal NSW)
onto Noosa (where my parents lived for a time),
shorter trips to Canberra
When we relocated to Moruya, there were many road trips
holidays to Ballarat in Victoria,
likewise to Sale on the eastern seaboard
many to the far south coast to Pambula and Merimbula
innumerable to Sydney and Canberra.
We had 8 seater VW vans to cater for four children so in some respect were had well planned for children trips and these were the kind of activities we engaged our children.
They each a number of books (we emphasised reading)
They were each invited to creative stories (imagination)
We played cassette sermon tapes (later CDs)
We played Christian carols (later CDs)
Theology discussions and their practical outworking
But our big draw cards on the longer trips which took hours and no one ever tired of were the alphabet games.
Most influential game
Someone would initiate the game with one letter of the alphabet – maybe a D, a P perhaps or a T. Each in turn would would need to select a word, any word except the name of a city, and tell everyone in the car what the word was.
It might take 90 minutes to exhaust all the words beginning with that letter of the alphabet with 6 people selecting one word at a time. The word would sometimes be discussed and discover whether there were any derivatives of that word.
What astonished me, was our youngest child, Salley, who came up with the most remarkable selection of words starting with that particular letter of the alphabet. However she was able to bring out of the air (as it were) so many words when the older children were struggling a little, was something I marvelled at.
The result was that over a number of years they each developed a well spring of the English vocabulary. One aspect of all this, was that they children were allowed to watch (and loved) those English period pieces such as Pride and Prejudice (and the rest of them). The 17th and 18th centuries spoken English of the aristocracy was not your run of the mill Australian conversational strawyn.
Another thing we did in the car on those long road journeys were the theological discussions and how it might all work out in practise with outcome scenarios. If was often my wife Delma (now 38 years) who would raise an issue, I would be expected to offer up a biblical example, often from an Old Testament story, and then the children were invited to discuss how that might pan out in their situations.
We learnt a surprising amount of information from these discussions let alone the stories that came out relating to the school, other families, the teachers, those in the church, and a whole lot more.
No, don't give your children sedatives, allow certain parts of the trip for iphone and ipad games but have the rest of the time to get to know your kids. It is vital and invaluable time. You'll be surprised at their intelligence and what you're without they even knowing they've revealed anything.
That developed skill has stood me in good stead with the young writer ministry as so many of them reveal bits and pieces and I have this knack of being able to join the dots (as it were) over a 12–24 month period. A number have now exclaimed: "How did you know that!" (exclamation mark rather than a question mark).
Perhaps its nothing more than a remarkable memory where I'm able to recite conversations a week ago, a month ago, a year ago ..... particularly (my speciality) are the tones and emphasises. My wife Delma said to me recently – she needs to strap to her head a video camera (like those car cams) so play back what was said and done!" Too true. We could all do with one of them, especially when trying to remember a bible verse read that same morning!
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html