25 DO’s and DON’Ts for Travel With Small Children

25 DO's And DON'Ts For Travel With Small Children | thisgratefulmama.com

Through trial and error, we’ve learned some lessons about flying and traveling with small children.

Last year I shared a travel experience which included a public temper tantrum. Thankfully, not all trips include meltdowns. Travel is getting easier because the kids are older and because we’ve learned some lessons.

In October we went to Maine for our nephew’s wedding. We took a direct flight to Boston, then rented a car. We drove to Maine, taking in the beautiful New England fall colors.

We reached a new milestone – no tears, on either flight! Sure, there were moments requiring patience and each of us had cranky moments, especially with emergency bathroom trips. But overall, even travel days were characterized by joy.

I call that success.

While not every trip will go this smoothly, there are some things we can do to promote a positive outcome.

25 DOs and DON’Ts for Travel With Small Children

  1. DO Consider Alternate Routes – If you cannot find a direct flight, consider driving a leg. For us, a layover and second flight is just too much. Meltdowns ensue. Flying to Boston and driving 2 hours means more room to sit and sleep without being right on top of each other. And it saved some money on plane tickets.
  2. DON’T Expect A Nap– Travel is tiring. Travel is also exciting. Traveling over nap time does NOT guarantee a nap. Be grateful if a nap happens, but don’t get your undies in a bunch if it doesn’t.
  3. DO Have a Backup Plan – What soothes your child best? What can be used as a bargaining chip? Maybe a tablet, DVD Player, sucker, snack, toy, or book. I recommend at least one secret last-resort solution.
  4. DON’T Over Pack – ‘Being prepared’ is a good idea. But over-packing means carrying children along with heavy carry-on bags and luggage. Nobody wants to be a pack mule. Pack wisely with small and light weight items.
  5. DO Use Curb-Side Check In – See #4. Do not lug car seats through the airport.
  6. DON’T Waste Car Seat Bag Space – Checking car Seat bags is free. Take advantage! Fill empty space with lightweight bulky items like diapers and blankets.
  7. DO Get TSA Pre-Check – If someone traveling with you has TSA Pre-Check, have them book all tickets. Then everyone enjoys this coveted perk.
  8. DON’T Fear TSA – In our experience, security personnel have taken time to welcome kids and help us. Greet security with a smile and thank them. You want and need their help.
  9. DO Explain What Comes Next – Help transitions and ease fears by explaining what to expect (security, checking bags, boarding, sitting on the runway). Focus on how each step brings them closer to the ‘fun’ of taking off and arriving at your destination.
  10. DON’T Forget Compromise – A full travel day will not go as planned. When kids get squirrley, happily make an unplanned stop, take an impromptu walk, switch seats, buy a snack, or improvise.
  11. DO Plan For Emergencies – An extra change of clothes, diapers, pull-ups and wipes are necessary. Hand sanitizer, band aids and tissues cover most unexpected events. Carry on necessary medications (we need an inhaler, Benedryl & Epi-Pen).
  12. DON’T Worry About Others – Do your best to keep children reasonably quiet and from kicking seats. But worrying about others adds stress and won’t help anyone have a good flight. Focus on the kids and thank others for their patience if necessary afterwards.
  13. DO Bring No-Spill Cups – Don’t risk airline cups. A wet kid (or parent) just isn’t worth it. A no-spill squirt bottle or sippy cup will be a life saver on the flight and in the car. Bring empty and fill after security.
  14. DON’T Forget Snacks – A hungry child or parent is not at their best. Avoid being one big hangry family by packing healthy snacks. For a food allergy family, this is necessity – it can be difficult to find a safe snack. Never, ever travel without snacks. We pack carrots, celery, cheese sticks, apples, goldfish, pumpkin seeds, and freeze-dried corn or soybeans.
  15. DO Board Early – With little ones, getting situated with your carry-on is nearby is worth sitting on the plane for a little bit.
  16. DON’T Overestimate Your Child’s Bladder – Limit beverages and take extra bathroom trips.  Go while the seat belt sign is off – there is no guarantee it will stay off.
  17. DO Put Kids First – Duh. A travel day with kids is not about you. It just isn’t. Read until hoarse, hold your sleeping child with numb arms, listen to that song over and over. If they’re happy, go with it. If they have a good trip, so will you.
  18. DON’T Reject the Pacifier – Our daughter is 2, and isn’t allowed to have a pacifier during the day…but on a plane? Why, have it the whole flight! It soothed her ears, kept her quiet, and helped her nap. Not into pacifiers? Bring a favorite comfort item.
  19. DO Use the Play Area – Use hand sanitizer and set kids loose in the play area. They can climb, play and run while you sip coffee.
  20. DON’T Forget The Camera – Pictures of kids squealing with giddy delight as we ‘Blasted Off” are priceless. Digital photos are a great tool for distraction.
  21. DO Pray – Enlist others to pray for transitions, patience, health and for your actions, attitudes and words to honor God.
  22. DON’T Show Fear – Turbulence? FUN! They recognize our concern and magnify it. Keep it positive, no matter how bumpy.
  23. DO Laugh – there is no place for frustration about how things have gone or are going. LET IT GO and laugh it off.
  24. DON’T Forget A Noise Machine – Whether staying in a hotel or with family, there will be strange noises. Minimize the effect and promote sleep by packing their noise machine. We packed this one – compact and loud, with a night-light.
  25. DO Celebrate Small Victories – No tears on a flight? Make a big deal of good behavior. Great listening? Celebrate it. Child use the airplane bathroom? Congratulate them. Giving credit for small victories helps them feel accomplished.

What My Impatience Teaches Our Kids As I Rush Them Out The Door

What My Impatience Teaches Our Kids As I Rush Them Out The Door | thisgratefulmama.com

This morning was busy. Although I got up early for a head start, we were still running behind, struggling to get out the door on time.  We made it to the car just in time, only to need to go back inside to change a surprise dirty diaper.

As we finally left the driveway, I was taking a deep breath to compose myself as our son vocalized what I was already saying in my head…Hurry mommy, we’re going to be late!

Then, he turned to his sister, “Baby, you maybe made us late”. Uh oh.

While I didn’t use the words ‘hurry up’, he picked up on my impatient rushing as I demanded they put on their shoes and coat now. Plus, I’ve told him ‘we’re going to be late’ or to ‘hurry up’ plenty of times. An ongoing pattern.

Sigh…while its one thing for him to tell me to hurry, I don’t want him blaming his sister. Wonder where he learned that? While I have been careful not to say a person made us late, I have been guilty of blaming something – You know, we’re late because of that lost shoe, temper tantrum, or…problem. Not surprising he was perceptive enough to translate that as blaming the person.

Yep. Nothing like my own hurried, careless words being repeated by our child to stop me in my tracks.

Perhaps rushing around like a crazy lady morning after morning isn’t doing any of us any good.

I’ve been thinking about what I’ve really been teaching them with this pattern of impatient rushing. I often excuse the craziness of getting out the door by telling myself that being on time is a necessary life skill – And it is, but not like this.

I do want them to learn to be on time and respect the time of others. But I really want them to learn how to be on time without rushing, which requires preparation, flexibility, and grace. Even if we need to hurry once in a while, it can be done without barking demands. And, sometimes, unexpected things happen – it is ok to be a little late.

In truth, it is better to be late and not be a big ball of stress with two cranky kids in tow when we get there (you’d be cranky too if you were rushed into the car by an impatient mama!).

What is the point of being on time if you’ve exasperated yourself and those around you in the process? While I’ve heard the phrase “timeliness is next to godliness“, I’m pretty sure God is appalled by the rushed methods employed by many parents as we force our kids out the door.

While I may be reinforcing the importance of being on time, there is much more they are learning from my hurry – and most of it is unimpressive.

What My Impatience Teaches Our Kids As I Rush Them Out The Door | thisgratefulmama.com

What My Impatience Teaches Our Kids As I Rush Them Out The Door:

  • Their last-minute (albeit important) need is a hassle they may even feel they, themselves are a hassle. I should be grateful we had the chance to change that diaper BEFORE we left, even if it means removing her coat, hat, mittens and boots, and putting them all on again (yes, it is snowing in April in MN)
  • Being too busy is OK, and a way of life – is this how I want them to treat their families when they grow up?
  • Being late is an excuse to forego kindness and gentleness – we taught Ephesians 4:32 to our son and often talk about being kind to others. As I hurry him along, sighing and making demands, I’m a hypocrite, undermining my own efforts. Of course he will turn around and do the same to his sister – he learned it from his mama!
  • Being on-time in tears, angry, or frazzled is better than being late – nothing like a stressed out, tearful family, on-time on to church…because that will get them in the mood to worship the Lord (note the sarcasm)
  • What’s next is more important than right now – There is nothing wrong with purposeful preparation, but worrying is a whole different thing. They will never learn to just be if I’m impatient to move on to the next thing or how what we are doing now is taking too long
  • Being on-time is more important than pausing to help them learn to zip their coat, tie their shoe, answer a question
  • Getting ready to go isn’t fun – if it always ends with an exasperated mama or daddy, or kids in tears…I would drag my feet too
  • Everything must be done quicklywe don’t have time to appreciate details, make observations or ask questions. Oh, the teachable moments I am missing!
  • A schedule is more important than what they are doing now
  • They slow me down – I never want them to think I’d rather they weren’t with me so I could go faster, but sometimes my words or actions may communicate exactly that. Ouch.
  • In a hurry, their feelings don’t matter ever tell your child you don’t have time for their meltdown? Sadly, I have, even when it was fueled by my own sharp tone? How wrong is that?
  • They can’t do anything right, or fast enough if we haven’t allowed enough time, they probably can’t do it fast enough. When hurrying, they will make mistakes, especially if I’m barking orders to hurry
  • If you’re late, it’s ok to be cranky, all the way there – sometimes we just need to accept we’re late. Don’t sit with clenched jaws in a car full of tension all the way there, turn on the radio and move on! Better to be there happy and late, than stressed and still just as late.

There are very few instances where the cost of impatient rushing is really worth it. Time to slow down, mama!

Wait for it…Teaching A 4 Year Old To Wait Is No Easy Task

Wait for it....Teaching A 4 Year Old To Wait is No Easy Task | thisgratefulmama.com

Let me tell you about a regular conversation I have with my 4-year-old son. This particular conversation was about water, but you could insert any subject and we have this same conversation, every day, multiple times.

  • Him: {Mom, can I have some water please? With ice}
  • Me: I like the way you asked, I’m changing your sister’s diaper and then I’ll get you some water
  • {Sigh. Mom, I need some water!}
  • Let me throw this away and wash my hands so they’re clean to get water (at the kitchen sink by his cup)
  • {Crying. Alligator tears. I need some water now!}
  • I asked you to wait. What does wait mean?
  • {I don’t know}
  • Wait means YES, but you have to wait a minute (I give him a hug)
  • {Oh. Sniffle. Can I have some water now?}
  • Here is your water. Please remember that next time, wait means yes. If we can’t learn to wait the answer might be no next time. It  takes me longer to get water when I’m trying to calm you down instead of getting water
  • {OK mom, I’ll remember}

So after that conversation, you’d think the next time he needs something when my hands are being used to make dinner, vacuum, rock his sister, or…it wouldn’t go that way. Right?


This conversation repeats, with slight improvement depending on how soon it occurs after the last conversation. But day after day we have  the same conversation over something else – a snack, some water, another snack, help with socks, yet another snack, finding a toy, you guessed it – another snack (as you can see there are hangry tendencies in this house).

Why is it so hard for him us to wait?

Well, why is it so hard for me to wait? For you to wait? Sometimes I think it’s because we’re out of practice. We certainly wait for things, but less than we used to because of technology. Everything is faster. Want to know something? The answer is at your fingertips. Gone are the days of finding an encyclopedia or dictionary, and here are instant searches on Google.

In general, lines are shorter and faster because the person at the end of the line has technology at their fingertips too. Or, skip the line altogether and check yourself out. We no longer call someone’s home answering machine and wait for them to get home to call back – we reach them wherever they are. This attitude of instant gratification makes traffic more unbearable, because there is no escape, even if we  weave back and forth between lanes.

These conversations with my son can test MY patience as I wait for him to learn this lesson (see, waiting is hard!). It isn’t fun hearing him be upset. Plus requests for basic needs like food or water are things I won’t be withholding for long at all (well, unless it’s a request for candy…after he asked for it 1000 times after the holidays, we told him that until he stopped asking, the answer is no). But being impatient with him doesn’t teach him to wait, it does the opposite. So, I’m expectantly waiting on the day, trying to be patient, when this waiting lesson will click.

If we can’t help him handle the little stuff to which the answer is yes-but-wait, how can we teach them to wait for the things that aren’t as easy? As adults, we often wait for things that take longer, and may not have a YES answer at the end. We wait for prayers to be answered for the hard stuff – pregnancies, test results, healing, raises, and job interviews. We wait for answers we may not even want to hear, but we wait nonetheless.

Truth is, children and adults all need practice waiting on the easy stuff so when serious moments come, we are able to wait with grace, and hopefully without driving our families crazy. Even though I feel like a broken record, persistence in teaching waiting continue. This lesson must be learned so he can be a functioning, patient adult. So even though I know we’ll have yet another conversation on waiting today, and tomorrow, I need to be patient with him and go through it again. He needs practice at mastering the short wait – for something trivial he knows he’ll get in the end.

For full disclosure, this waiting thing doesn’t always look as it should on me either. He hears me sighing as I hit those brakes in the car. And he sees me check the clock on my phone as we are waiting in line at Target (for all of five…whole…minutes). I’m not always good at waiting either. Waiting is not the norm. It isn’t expected that the line will be long when I had just enough time to run in and out. It isn’t expected that traffic will back up long after rush hour ended. Instead of accepting that the wait is just a delay, not an end to my plans, I too, often sigh and complain, in a rush.

And what does rushing things do? Usually nothing good. If our son is impatient, I tend to make him wait longer, or change my answer to no. Trying to rush things as adults often yields similar results and often, if we had just waited patiently, things would have gone a lot smoother.

I need to work on my patience in waiting if I want to demonstrate and instill this skill in our son. No more sighing in traffic or acting annoyed in lines. These are trivial in the big picture and if I can’t master these, how can I demonstrate waiting in the big issues?

So we’ll focus on helping him with the yes-but-wait things for now. The bigger, more difficult waits will come with time, and without my help.

My son is into traffic signs and wants to know what they mean. He asks me all kinds of questions while we are driving and usually knows when it is our turn to go. This week, we talked about the Yield sign and how even though there is no stop sign or stop light at the roundabouts by our house, we yield to those in the roundabout before entering it. Waiting is kind of like yielding to traffic. Your turn, your answer, your result…will come. You may have to wait for longer than you’d like to, but in the end, you always get to go, even if it isn’t in the direction you’d hoped. A wait is a delay to an outcome, but there will be one. While it isn’t true that all of life’s waits end with the answer YES, they do usually yield an answer.

It is time to stop being impatient with the timeline, and to stop trying to rush this very important lesson. I need to wait for my son to learn to wait. We will prepare him for the tough waits. We will keep teaching our son (and soon our daughter) that the answer to much of life’s waiting is YES.

It just means you have to wait for it…

7 Tips For Moms When Your Spouse Travels For Work

spouse travel

Whether you stay at home with your kids, or work during the day, life is just a BIT more complicated when your spouse travels for work. Suddenly, your parenting partner is unavailable during evening hours, and your kids are missing their daddy (all while YOU are missing your spouse!).

A traveling spouse means you’re IT. You and the kids are on your own for meals, activities, bedtime and emergencies.

Per Murphy’s Law, SOMETHING unplanned will happen. At our house, it’s usually a sick child. I’m not sure how this happens, but literally, the moment my husband’s plane leaves the ground, one of my previously healthy children falls ill.

Almost. Every. Time.

Weeks without daddy can be especially difficult when a child is ill. Now, no one is getting out of the house. This means no adult interaction for the mama, and no alternative entertainment from friends, family, school, or activities.

Whether everything goes as planned, or not, here are some practical tips for thriving when we’re the one on our own with our little ones.


7 Tips For Moms While Your Spouse Travels For Work

1. Practice Gratitude

I know, I know, you’ve seen me write this before. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but for me, it’s crucial. My situation looks mighty different when I look though a lens of gratitude for all the blessings God has provided to our family, and specifically, to me.

When the weeks or days (or HOURS) get long, remember to be grateful that your spouse HAS a job (hopefully one they enjoy and are challenged by). Savor that your kids are amazing, and that you have the chance to see them every day (and acknowledge that your traveling spouse does not get to)

If you’re a stay-at-home mama, be grateful YOU CAN. It is a special privilege not given to many.

2. Be Flexible

When my husband will be gone, activities have two purposes: to entertain the kids and to give me a little break. Our schedule is selective and is sometimes designed specifically to save my sanity. But, even a well planned schedule has pitfalls; illnesses and cancellations happen. I can’t rely on a carefully planned schedule alone to carry me through the week.

It can be disheartening when you can’t go to activities. WHEN it happens, remember that as the parent, YOU are the one who sets the tone. Bad attitudes are particularly infectious.

BRIEFLY acknowledge your own disappointment and theirs. Console. Then, adapt and move on. SHOW your kids how to be flexible. Even if you ‘fake’ a good attitude at the beginning because you are discouraged, as they cheer up, so will you.

3. Soak It Up

When one parent is gone, you’re IT. You are on-demand. You are needed and wanted possibly more than you’d rather.

When daddy is gone, my kids are more attached to me than usual. They have been known to start getting upset when I leave the room for just a second, and suddenly a bathroom break causes chaos. Sometimes all that attention makes me want to just run away and find a closet to hide in. Even for just. ONE. minute.

When I feel smothered, it helps to remind myself that the kids miss their daddy, and that I need to extend extra grace. I intentionally lower my voice and try to speak gently, even when I’m feeling emotionally raw. I do my best to welcome their requests to be close (as in hugging-my-leg-the-entire-time-I-make-dinner ‘close’). The more available I am, the better their behavior, overall.

So, set those dishes down, leave the crumbs on the floor, and let those little ones climb into your lap. Read to them until you’re hoarse. Love them up, and enjoy every second of it. It may sound cliche, but it really WON’T be this way forever. Do whatever you have to do to remind yourself that these moments are fleeting, even if they feel like they’re taking For..ever.

Let their demand for more of you FILL your soul rather than drain it.

4. Check Your Perspective

During a two-week stretch when the kids and I were all sick and stuck inside, I had a moment of intense jealousy of my traveling husband.

Sure, traveling to Bangkok may sound glamorous, but 30+ hours of travel in a MIDDLE seat, then enduring wicked jet-lag, and FULL days of business meetings (with maybe 2 hours of sight-seeing during an entire week) is just NOT enviable…THEN traveling to Amsterdam with full days of meetings, even more jet-lag for another week, (also with little-or-no sightseeing)…THEN coming home to sick kids and a sick wife….taking care of them while enduring MORE jet-lag….IS. NOT. FUN. It just isn’t. Then after one day home (taking care of us), he was back at work, exhausted, and bombarded with people and problems who needed him. NOW.

My jealousy was absurd and unfair. My bad attitude didn’t help me be patient with the kids (which is why one of my first blog posts was about patience), and I felt drained, cranky and tired. If you start to feel this way, and you think life is more pleasant for your traveling spouse, step back and be honest about what traveling for work is REALLY like. Trust me, the grass is NOT greener on the other side and it isn’t as glamorous as you may assume.

Kick that jealousy to the curb and be grateful you endured your week without jet-lag, and that you slept in your own comfy bed.

5. Stay Connected

Whether you are getting out of the house or not, find ways to stay connected with your spouse, friends and family. Set phone and skype dates with your spouse and KEEP THEM (even if just for 5 minutes). Do the same with friends if you can’t get out because your kids are sick. When healthy, accept invites with friends and setup play dates, or meet a friend to go for a walk or to the park. If you have family in the area, quality time with beloved grandparents, aunts and uncles can work miracles with children who miss their daddy and need some extra loving. And, don’t let being BUSY while your spouse is gone deprive you of your quiet time with the Lord. Staying connected there will remedy a whole lot of problems and leave you feeling refreshed in the midst of what may be chaos.

6. Find An Outlet

Regardless of your next ‘break’ out of the house, you need to find something that gives you a ‘mental’ break. FIND an outlet that energizes and restores you. Look for something to learn, read, do, make, exercise or play. Doing something productive is always a bonus and mood booster.

For me, one of the things that came out of my husband’s travel is this blog. The blog was and IS STILL a necessary outlet for me to write down thoughts. It encourages me to DO something productive and stop vegging out on the couch, eating junk food, and watching garbage TV at night. I do hope you enjoy reading this, but in reality, this blog is for ME (Selfish, I know). I’ve also found an outlet doing some part time work from home, and in craft or DIY projects while the kids are asleep.

7. Ask For, and Accept Help

This is not one of my strong suits…but important to acknowledge and DO! We all need help. Admit it. Accept it. Ask family, friends, or hire a baby sitter if you have to. When someone offers, take them up on it. Also check around your community for other forms of help:

  • Check into events that can lighten your load: See if your church, (or a local church near you) does a meal any night of the week – they often have children’s programming that the kids can attend for FREE. Everyone benefits.
  • Utilize the child care at your gym to give yourself an hour break and to work out: Your body and attitude will thank you.
  • Consider identifying a daycare source if you need somewhere for the kids to go in a pinch: There are some pay-by-the hour places, and some companies have backup daycare for children of employees. Get the paperwork in order, so it is available if you need it.
  • This might be a good time to take advantage of ECFE, Parks and Recreation, and Community Education programs in your area.
  • Check out things like open gym, open swim, or other similar activities that can let your kids play while you watch, sipping a coffee.


At times, the schedule may seem grueling and the days may sometimes feel like they go on forever, but we can still do our job as a mom WELL and enjoy it whether our spouse is in town or not. The trips aren’t stopping for us anytime soon, so I would love to know your best tips. What do you do to make the most of the days when you’re on your own with the kids?


7 Tips For Moms When Your Spouse Travels For Work | thisgratefulmama.com

5 Questions to Consider When Setting Your Family’s Fall Schedule

5 Questions To Consider When Setting Your Family's Fall Schedule | thisgratefulmama.com

Hello September.

I can’t believe my second summer as a stay-at-home mom is finished already. Unlike last year, our mornings were free since our daughter dropped her morning nap. With no scheduled activities, we kept a very loose schedule.

The freedom…It. Was. Lovely.

We met friends at parks, went to the zoo (A LOT), ran errands on rainy days, and spent a lot of time relaxing, reading books, and playing at home.

My husband and I allowed bed and nap times to be more flexible than the rest of the year. If neighbor children were outside, we allowed the kids to play longer, and stayed later at events. We also allowed our little one to even skip naps for special family events (although she and WE all paid for that!).

The loose schedule did sometimes yield overtired, overstimulated, unruly and exhausted children. But, because it was summer, we simply stayed home the next day (or two) to get back on track.

While I have enjoyed the flexibility, I am ready for a change of pace.

With no structured activities, I had very few opportunities to spend time with adults (away from the kids). I miss it. Without it, I find myself less patient, and more easily frustrated. Not the way I want to be.

My son will be attending preschool two half-days a week.  I am excited for him to experience new things and meet new kids, but also feel unexpectedly emotional at the same time. He will never be home with me as much as he is now. Starting now, time devoted to school, sports and friends will increase year by year.

This realization that the time we have at home is fleeting makes me committed to make the most of our time this year (of course, while making a concerted effort NOT to smother them). I am looking to maximize quality time at home, while exposing both kids to educational and social opportunities. This summer, we were barraged by flyers for sports, ECFE, swimming lessons, church activities and more. I had a pile of things that looked worthwhile. So much to do…So little time.

As we set the schedule for fall, there is a real need for balance. It is imperative that we avoid the danger of being TOO busy. Being TOO busy will run children and parents ragged. Suddenly activities that are supposed to be fun and begin to cause stress, angst, and lose their effectiveness.

There are SO MANY great opportunities to learn and play, but we CANNOT and WILL NOT do them all.

Here are 5 questions we considered when setting our family’s fall schedule.  These questions helped us sort through what was important and to choose activities wisely. Our answers are noted with each question.

5 Questions to Consider When Setting Your Family’s Fall Schedule:

1. What takes priority?

What are the priorities for your family this year? What activities MUST happen each day/week? This may be different depending on the season. As a general rule, if anything interferes with these priorities, it is unlikely that we will participate.

Our family:

  • We put God first. Church and Small Group every other Sunday night are a MUST.
  • The kids will be allowed to sleep until they wake up MOST days
  • My daughter will have a consistent afternoon nap, otherwise she just is not herself
  • I am committed to staying home all day with the kids at least one day a week to just enjoy them
  • Family dinners are priority
  • Bedtime will be consistent
  • The schedule needs to allow me to run errands, and keep the house in order

2. What is necessary and what ‘would-be-nice’?

Is the activity something that NEEDS to be done? Or is it something that would be fun, or nice to do if time allows?

Our family:

  • Aiden: NEEDS to attend preschool. Swimming lessons, maybe a sport or two during the year, or time to play with other kids ‘would-be-nice’
  • Adelyn: NEEDS the opportunity to spend time away from me and to interact with other children. Swimming lessons ‘would-be-nice’
  • I: NEED one activity during the week that allows me to interact with other adults away from my children. It ‘would-be-nice to have more than one since my husband travels a lot
  • My husband: NEEDS to meet with a group of men from church before work

3. Is the schedule fair?

Once you have the list of activities you’ll participate in, determine if it is balanced (for children AND adults). Each member of the family is ONE of {insert size of family}; the schedule won’t work if it is at the expense of any ONE. Can everyone benefit from this schedule? Does the schedule meet the NEEDS of everyone? 

Our family:

  • The kids and I will attend Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) on Thursday mornings and the women’s bible study at church on Tuesdays. These precious hours allow me to study God’s word and get to know some amazing women. The kids learn about God and play with some very sweet children. These breaks leave me feeling refreshed and restored; they allow me to be a better wife and to parent with more patience and grace
  • My son will attend preschool, two days a week, in the afternoons. He will go just after lunch, and my daughter will go down for her nap right after we drop him off. This gives ample time for her to rest, and I am especially looking forward to some special time alone with her before we go pick him up.
  • We signed my son up for a 4-week gymnastics class during the month of September, along with 2 neighbor kids. It starts early enough in the evening that we can have family dinners when we get home (as long as I plan ahead), and is a chance for us to see how things go having another activity in the schedule.  

4. Is it feasible?

Can you meet your priorities, and make it to everything without undue stress? Is there enough time between activities?

Our family:

  • Our current planned schedule does allow me to run errands and clean the house during the week
  • Our schedule will allow me time to prep meals and for family dinners, and does not interfere with the kids waking up, nap time, or bedtime.
  • Our Thursday schedule was NOT feasible. We were going to attend a BSF class across town (where our friends are) but it would not be feasible to get eat lunch, and get to preschool on time without undue stress (and even then we might be late). SO, we transferred to a different class, which allows us more time

5. What needs to go?

If the schedule looks full, are there some activities you can put off until later in the year? Is there an activity that needs to be given up? Have you taken time to ASK your child what they want to continue doing, or if there is anything they would rather do instead?

Our family:

  • We want both kids to do swimming lessons this year. With the school year just starting, we’ll get into the swing of things and see if we can add classes on Saturday mornings during the second fall session
  • If any activity is causing undue stress, frustration, over-stimulation, fear, or just isn’t going well – we will reassess and determine if we will continue or not


5 Questions To Consider When Setting Your Family's Fall Schedule | thisgratefulmama.com

6 Strategies to Keep the Peace When Your Child is Ill

We all know those days…your normally well-behaved and easy-going child becomes an opinionated, cranky, and whiny little person. As the day goes on, symptoms of illness that were not at first obvious, present themselves and the sensitivity of your little one is magnified even further.

Pretty soon you, and your family are walking on eggshells around an emotionally unpredictable tiny child who doesn’t feel well.

In our house, it’s not the days the child feels the worst; those days, they want to snuggle up, sleep, read books and watch TV. The hardest days are the day the child falls ill, and the day they start to feel better. They have a spark of energy and desire to play, but are frustrated by feeling badly and are emotional and hyper-sensitive.

It is obvious they do NOT feel well, and as a result, they are no longer equipped to cope with simple frustrations.

Whether home all day with the children, or spending time with them after work, you need a strategy to smooth out the rough edges and keep the peace of your household.

6 Strategies to ‘Keep the Peace’ When a Child is Ill

1. Lower Your Voice

These days can also frustrate you, so intentionally lower your voice. Speak more softly than normal, and encourage siblings to do the same. Quiet words are more likely to be received calmly and are less likely to be mistaken as yelling by a sensitive child. As a general rule, the quieter my voice, the quieter the response from the child (sick or not).

2. Run Sibling Interference

When one doesn’t feel well, tension between siblings can run high. A sick child is more inclined to perceive normal interactions as ‘unfair’, and be less equipped to graciously deal with the occasional ‘butting of heads’ (figuratively and literally). Helping the well child understand the other child isn’t feeling well may diffuse a few arguments, but if too many, the well child may feel slighted.

Let them play nicely together as long as it lasts. When the peace has ended, efforts to keep each child occupied and perhaps in their own space can pay dividends. Try keeping the other sibling busy building their OWN Lego tower, if possible, try staggering their naps/rest time, or see if they will play nicely in their OWN rooms for a while. Some alone time may allow them to miss the other and play nicely for a while later in the day.

3. Get Creative with Restful Activities

Fill the day with quiet activities that require your child to SIT: play-dough, books, coloring, puzzles, blocks, and that indoor ‘fake’ sand. For most of these activities, each child can have their own space and activity. I can buckle the little one into a high-chair (which allows for easy sibling interference), and the one who doesn’t feel well stays busy in a way that promotes REST. A few other ideas include:

  • bath time with plenty of toys – make it extra special by putting on swim suits, playing music, and adding sunglasses for a ‘pool party’
  • build a fort (or let them play in their closet so you don’t have to keep rebuilding it, fill it with their bedding and pillows and give them a flashlight and some books
  • build a tape road on your carpet and supply the trucks
  • any type of sensory play at the table
  • making cards or craft presents for grandparents or daddy using water-color paint, glue and cut paper, pipe cleaners or whatever else you have on hand
  • setup a ‘zoo’ with all their stuffed animals and give them little people to come and visit
  • sit and play doctor, restaurant or other pretend prop activity
  • paint a steamy mirror in the bathroom-keeps them busy while loosening congestion
  • play a board game if they are old enough
  • practice numbers and letters and writing them at the table – even better, use flashcards or a magnetic drawing board and do it snuggled up on the couch

4. Lengthen rest-time (if possible)

Plan ahead! Make sure they’ve eaten if hungry, have some water and tissues nearby, and if necessary, have had a fresh dose of fever reducer or paint reliever a little while BEFORE the rest. Do what you can to help them rest. My son no longer naps, but I TRY to get him to sleep when he is sick. Usually, if I do some extra work, he will sleep (which as a bonus gives ME a needed break!).

If helping them sleep means you need to sit and read a few extra books, or rub their back to help them fall asleep, DO IT! The longer they rest, the quicker they feel better, and the quicker your family can stop walking on eggshells. If the other sibling wakes first, spend some dedicated time with them as they may be getting less attention than usual.

5. Give in to Technology

I generally try to keep the kids away from TV, but am willing to use it liberally when someone is sick. They see TV as a treat, so getting to wrap up in a blanket, snuggle up with mommy and watch Mighty Machines on Netflix is special and exciting. Try to sneak in snuggle time with each child so no one feels left out. As they feel better, reduce TV time accordingly so you don’t have a battle when they feel well.  Try giving them a turn using the tablet loaded with a new kids app, scroll through family pictures on the computer, or play their favorite CD and let music distract them for a bit.

6. Adjust Discipline

The whine – you can’t mistake the sick whine because they’re laying it on pretty thick. Usually, I respond to whiny voices by asking the child to say it again, nicely and I get a chipper, smiley response. It may be over-the-top FAKE happy, but it is un-whiny nonetheless. When the child is sick, my request to say it nicely is often met with tears, and a MORE whiny and insistent request (aka demand). If the child was healthy, I’d  reinforce that crying and whining to do not get us what we want. EVER. Except when you’re sick. A little whine isn’t going to do much more than hurt my ears and test my patience. The sick child gets a minor whiny-pass, with gentle reminders to try to use a ‘happy face’.

Actively course correct – In addition to giving a break on whining, readjusting discipline to focus more on course correction instead of punishment can help avoid meltdowns. This does not mean ignoring a major offense, but trying to head off a behavior before it needs to be addressed. This can be done by suggesting something else to do, distraction with music or simply by scooping them up in a hug. If you can break their train of thought, you can usually prevent a behavior that requires discipline. On a normal day, I let them figure out where their actions are leading, so they can learn cause-effect of behavior; but when one is sick, I simply try to keep the peace.

Switch methods – You know your child best. Avoid using discipline that you know will amplify their emotions. When my son is sick, I try very hard not to give him a time-out because he hates being alone when sick. A time-out that usually takes 2 minutes becomes an all-out meltdown, sometimes inducing worse behavior that then requires even further discipline. SO, if the offense is minor, I try to adjust how I discipline so we still address the issue, but do so without a time out. For example, if he is takes a toy from his sister, inducing tears, he needs to apologize, say he is sorry and kiss her on the head (avoid kisses if you think they are contagious). OR, I might have him make her a ‘present’ to say sorry by coloring a picture, which can interrupt activity so he doesn’t do the same thing right away. I will then tell him that if the behavior happens again, I will have to put away a toy for the day (his favorite digger or dump truck are the first to go). When sick, confiscating toys works better than time-outs, BUT when he is feeling WELL, taking a toy usually induces a tantrum, so we start with time-outs. Don’t be afraid to try something new if your standard discipline isn’t working.

6 strategies for keeping the peace

The good news about minor illnesses is they go away. A little extra effort from you, and you can help keep the peace so the illness doesn’t set your house into a perpetual whiny and tear-stricken place.  Good luck!

Impatient for Patience

Impatient for Patience | thisgratefulmama.com

Recently, I snapped at my son, impatient with his whiny attitude. My unkind tone invoked tears. Annoyed, I went on to tell him how whining hurt my ears. Now sobbing, he cried, “Stop talking, mom”.

His words stung. They were all he could utter to express his hurt feelings. Convicted, his tears broke my heart.

Correcting his attitude was appropriate, but not with such blatant insensitivity. My tone rendered my words ineffective and left me needing to apologize.

What was wrong with me? Obviously, my child cried and did not feel JOY when I spoke to him like that. 

Most days, I follow simple steps to address discipline. Sticking to the plan usually keeps me calm regardless of the offense. SOME days, I have seemingly never-ending patience.

But there are too many days where a trivial offense is met with an unwarranted impatience.  Frustrated when my child can’t wait just ONE MINUTE for that glass of water, I raise my voice. I hold a simple child responsible for impatience with me as I respond with an even worse attitude. Nice example. Seriously.  I. KNOW. BETTER. 

Never mind their attitude…What about mine?

My kids do not have thick skin. My impatience wounds them. It teaches them that a short-fuse is OK and that they don’t need to extend grace to others. It derails a teachable moment. Now I need to comfort them for my behavior. I could have just corrected them calmly and we’d be onto something else. I’m ashamed to say it happens all too often and I am sick and tired of failing. I don’t want to hurt my child’s feelings with my careless impatience.

I am impatient for patience.

I never decide to be impatient; it happens without thinking. I’ve often said loosely that I’m trying to be more patient. Truth is, I wasn’t actually DOING anything to equip for next time.

Making patience my natural response requires awareness and focus on changing my behavior. In recent months, I have been making a concerted effort to develop patterns that promote patience.

Impatient for Patience - 5 Tools to Improve Patience | thisgratefulmama.com

5 Tools to Improve Patience

Pray for it. EVERY. DAY. 

Then take a deep breath and pray again. Our kids notice when I pause to pray before responding. Sometimes it changes their behavior before I even begin to speak. Then we can talk about how we need to be patient with each other because God is patient with us.

Learn scripture and recite it

Impatience stems from my selfishness. Recalling scripture takes the focus off me and places it back on the Lord. Here are a few verses that I’ve been reciting:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Colossians 3:12 (ESV)

 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; James 1:19 (ESV)

Speak softly

And I don’t mean YELL in a whisper. You guys, this is SO hard! Speaking softly makes me choose my words and tone. Discipline spoken softly but firmly evokes a better response from my kids. Our kids tend to be VERY sensitive. My raised voice only escalates their emotions and the situation unnecessarily.

Take notice

Acknowledge impatience when it happens. Apologize. Ask forgiveness. Teach children to do the same when they are impatient. Take note of circumstances that seem to trigger habitual impatience; these situations require intentional practice.

Practice gratitude

Gratefulness generates patience because I focus on what I am blessed to already have instead of what I think I deserve.

I’ll be honest. Even with these efforts, patience is still a daily (sometimes every-minute) struggle. Here I talked mostly about children, but impatience also happens towards my husband, bad drivers and plenty of others.

I will never be perfectly patient, but it is my desire that patience would become my instinctive, and most common response.

One thing is certain – I am willing to do the work. My family is worth it.

Is yours?



Impatient for Patience | thisgratefulmama.com Impatient for Patience | thisgratefulmama.com