The average Aussie family spends 5.6 hours in the car each week getting kids to their sporting activities. 60% of kids are driven to school.
Combine this amount of driving with record levels of work participation by parents and family stress is often the result.
To get by, families will make decisions on what their children can do and how they will get there. This is likely to include things like making their own way to activities and carpooling with other parents.
Obviously parents want the best for their kids which includes them staying safe. Here are some tips on how to succeed with this juggle.
1) Spend time getting to know your local community
Research shows that when parents and children feel connected to the community they are more comfortable with them travelling independently. This includes simple things like getting to know your neighbours, the person who runs the local milk bar and being familiar with the nearby streets.
2) Teach your kids safety skills from a young age
Safe behaviour can only be learned so don’t make all their decisions for them. Walking to school or around their neighbourhood, learning how to safely get around on a bike and how to deal with people they don’t know are all things that kids should feel they can cope with so find time to do it even if it’s not every day.
3) Get your gang happening
There really is safety and independence in numbers. Kids are more confident making decisions when they have a sibling or friend with them. Look for opportunities for your child to develop those skills with others in the neighbourhood.
4) Connect with people you trust to help share the load
It’s likely that there are people in the same situation as you are living nearby. Perhaps you could help each other out in terms of getting kids from A to B? This could include things like walking to school or carpooling. Spend some time trying to find and connect with these people to understand what they need and if you, and your kids, feel comfortable with them. If you do, then get that network working and you will save yourself a lot of stress.
If you are carpooling here are a few do’s and don’ts to keep everyone happy and safe:
Make sure your kids know who is picking them up so there is no confusion
Follow road and safety rules appropriate to the age / height of the child (this should be a no-brainer)
Set a good example in terms of how you speak and behave
Make sure the kids travelling together are polite to each other
Check in that it’s working for your child and any other family you are helping out, and don’t take it personally if someone has to pull out
Make sure your kids know they can tell you anything they are worried about
Have parent’s details (phone and address) in your phone contact list
Keep quiet – by being a fly on the wall you will learn a lot about your kid, their friends and what’s going on!
Don’t be late – it puts pressure on everyone so avoid it wherever possible and let people know if you are running late (the person being picked up also needs to make sure their child is ready)
Don’t cancel at the last minute or if you have to, take on responsibility for working out a solution
Sub-out to another driver without telling the other parent. Young kids, in particular, need to know who they are getting in the car with