Traveling with littles.
Going to the doctor with our group can be a huge adventure! :) The picture below is six of my kiddos while my oldest daughter was still in school.
My new foster son put a bead up his nose, yep, he did. Surprisingly, this was a first for me as a parent. It was way up there and we all had to go in, to a new doctor mind you, since he and his sister just came into my care a week earlier.
Planning so we are early or on time:
I have learned that the more I am rushing everyone, the more they are bound to meltdown from the stress. So for the sanity of everyone involved, I work hard to keep at a calm pace. This gives me extra time when I suddenly lose my keys while buckling everyone in the car and spend over ten minutes looking under all of their bums and carseats trying to find them; or for the times when the seatbelt has been pulled over and over by one of the kids and completely locks up and won't stretch to the buckle, and it won't retract because it is tangled in the carseat loop; or on the mornings when I hadn't even had time to look outside and I see that my car is completely frozen over. I plan in order to make time for the chaos. :)
When we arrive at our destination and sometimes even while we are driving to our appointment, I go over all of the rules before we get out of the car. I talk to the kids about walking with a buddy and staying in our group while we cross the parking lot. I remind them we have to have quiet voices in the waiting room with no fighting or fussing. I let them know that I packed a special treat and if they can do these things, then they get a treat when we get back to the car to head home. I usually keep it a surprise so the anticipation keeps them going. Otherwise they sometimes decide that it isn't worth whatever I have. :)
I often remind the kids about the rules, manners and expectations, as needed through out the trip and praise them when I see them doing a good job. I go down the list, calling out each individual child when I see them doing a great job. They love it and light up when they are praised. It can also help the other kids who need a reminder about sitting in their chair to join in and follow along before I get to their name.
Down the list I go, "Oh I see ___ doing a good job. And I see ____ having good manners." Or, "___ is sitting on his bottom." This has worked so well, my kids will actually ask me to do "a check" like at the dining room table while they wait for dinner or while we are on a bench waiting for our turn while out in public.
The picture above is when we lined up to leave the doctor office. Before I open the door, again if we aren't in a hurry, we talk about our calm bodies, quiet voices as we pass through the hall where the nurses are at their desks. On this particular day, the nurses complimented them on how good they were doing.
Our rule is that if you get a compliment from a stranger then you get a special treat when we get home or something fun for dessert that night.
Snacks, Treats and Toys:
Along with packing the necessary items I bring along snacks for the kids. This will help me corral them in a waiting room when we need to calm down a bit or get us through an extra long appointment. Before we leave the house I pack snack bags for each child. I have tried just bringing box of cookies or crackers before and it can actually add chaos. Having to pass them out to all of the kids while talking to the physician and making sure each kid gets an equal amount was just too much. So I grab zip lock snack sized bags and put dry cereal, or pretzels, or crackers inside. I have lived and learned that small bite sized items, usually dry items and non melting items, work best. Grapes that can squish on the floor or cheetos that will stain their fingers and anything else they touch, orange, are not on our list.
I hold on to these snacks as long as I can because when they are gone, my ammo is gone. :) I try to save them for the hard part, like when I really need them to all sit still, like when I need to help the doctor pull the bead out of my foster son's nose. :)
On special longer trips, I let some of my little fidgety kids bring a tiny toy, one that we don't mind if we lose it. Usually this is a matchbox car, or a tiny princess doll etc.. Something I can toss in my purse if needed. Can you imagine them all bringing seven stuffed animals? :)
The rule is that they get to have it, but if they have bad manners they get it taken away.
This particular visit was our first one with the new littles and we started out by putting on a show for everyone else waiting to be seen. Sharing new toys in a new waiting room is hard to do. :) The second we walked in there were huge scream-fests in the waiting area while they cried and fought over toys as I had to check in at the desk. :( Not my favorite moment.
But thankfully I swallowed my pride and we didn't have to stay long, before getting called back. Things mellowed down and they walked and stood quietly while waiting for our little guy to get his height and weight checked.
Once we are back in those tiny little rooms, our rule is that two kids sit per chair and if there isn't any room you can stand or sit on the ground. The idea is to find a spot and stick to it. Usually there are books to read, but I am a bit of a germaphobe. So we try to sing songs that engage each child or have motions or talk about what we see on the walls, or play I-spy. For the long waiting times I will let a few of the kids cluster together and watch a movie on my phone or we bring the iPad. The bottom line is that I try to hold their attention to keep fussing to a minimum while we wait for the doctor to come in.
For our kids, going to the store in small groups or all together is a treat. Yes, we even take them ALL to Costco. My husband and I each push a cart at Costco or Fred Meyer and let me tell you I love the carts when two kids can sit on top. :) I also let a few ride in the bottom until it gets to full with our items, then they hop out and walk.
Our rule is that they have to walk with one hand on the side of the cart. If they let go or goof around then I stop the cart and we take a minute to get back on track. I remind them that there are rules in the store and if we throw fits then they won't want us to come back. Sometimes I point to other people in the store, reminding them there are shoppers who do not want to hear fussy kids. This has worked well and the kids are now used to the routine.
Of course we all have hard days and I try to save my shopping trips until after nap time or early in the morning.
Sometimes I pick out an item, usually already on our list, and tell them it is our special treat, such as strawberries or a new snack or a DVD. I let them know if they all have good manners we will pay for it and take it home. If they don't then we have to tell the cashier we don't want it. This has also worked really well for us.
I have had my fair share of public meltdowns. There are always days when the kids have a hard time and we have to get through it anyway. I just tell myself I will never see these people again, or at least not for a while. :)
When my husband and I both take the kids out we are quick to go outside or take a child to the car if needed. Over time they learned that we mean what we say. It is a treat to go out to dinner or somewhere and we have to do our best.
The bottom line is that kids will have hard days. I don't expect them to be perfect and we have worked through years of anxiety and attachment and communication struggles so I am quite proud of where they are today. We have had tons of practice and have had our fair share of embarrassing moments. There are still struggles and we digest them as needed. One of my sweet daughters has a huge fear/sensory stress with wind. So any huge gust of wind and she stops in her tracks and screams. :( We give grace when needed and stick to the expectations when we can.
I hope you enjoyed my insight on traveling with littles. These are just things we work at so we can enjoy time out together. :)