Let's be honest: when you hike with kids, it isn't always perfect. (I hope I didn't break a fantasy for you there.) In fact, if I'm being brutally honest about my own experiences, outdoor adventures with the family always include some sort of uprising.
I figure since I have suffered through many misadventures, I should share some of my tips for [attempting to] push through the adventures when it starts to fall apart.
1. End the negativity before you clip the buckles.
Look, I totally get the moments when you are trying to get in the car and someone is still playing with building blocks and only has one sock on. Then, when you ask in your kindest fairy-godmother voice for them to get ready, all hell breaks loose. Trust me. I get it. Have your fly off the handle moment if need be. Discipline if need be. My recommendation is: make sure that by the time you clip the seat-belt buckles there has been a resolution and the argument doesn't follow you on the road. The kid might be sulking, sure, but make sure the negativity of handling the situation ends prior to leaving for your adventure.
And yes...this is my child on our way out the door to a family hike in the best summer hiking attire possible: button-up shirt and jeans. He was so happy to come on our adventure.
2. Be prepared for the elements.
Check the weather, know where you are going, what to expect and pack accordingly. Not having enough water, snacks, or clothing can send kids in to a tailspin (not to mention a lack of water is unsafe). We had one family hike that ended up being about an hour and a half longer than we had anticipated. That hour pushed us in to the hottest part of the day. We had brought PLENTY of water and snacks IF we hadn't hit the terrible afternoon heat. We ran out of water about 30 minutes before the end of the trail, at which time our over-packing of snacks failed miserably because they all melted in some capacity or another. The perfect recipe for an uprising. This same concept goes for a child that is too cold. Don't forget to check the weather AT YOUR DESTINATION. It might be cooler than your home, so just be ready.
3. Ignore the negativity.
I have to admit that I am not a great example of this suggestion; my husband, however, is amazing. If your adventure is exuding negativity (that is not harmful or down-right out of control), simply ignore it. Your kids (or spouse?) are trying to get a reaction out of you so you will give them what they want. I have spent a good hour exercising my patience with a very unhappy 10-year-old who felt the need to tell me why each tree, leaf, bug, and rock were the "stupidest thing ever". Rest assured the negativity did end and we avoided any escalated emotions by simply ignoring the poor attitude.
4. Bribery works.
Okay, okay. You have to promise not to judge me. Bribery isn't a favorite of everyone, so don't burn me at the stake, please. Let's just get real: desperate times call for desperate measures. When you are stuck 300 feet down a trail with switchbacks as your only escape, ice cream promises and happy meal dreams will work wonders. Find the one thing that sends your kid in to the my-parents-are-the-most-amazing-humans-ever-to-walk-the-earth euphoria and run with it.
5. Your attitude will dictate the family's attitude.
Of all the tips, this is the biggie. This is the one you want to remember when all else fails. It took a bit of nudging from my sweet and patient Hubs for me to realize that the kids feed off my attitude (and his) -- good or bad. If your adventure is going downhill fast, take a step back and check yourself (and any other adults you might be on the adventure with). Are you arguing? Are you upset? Chances are the kids are reacting to the tension they can see and feel and it will only get worse. Struggling to change your attitude? Even if you have to "fake it til you make it" I promise you that even a faked happiness will eventually turn in to a family memory of love, laughter and joy. You just have to give it time...and patience...and time....and a little more patience. Make every misadventure the best thing that has ever happened! Banged up knee? HOW COOL!! What a story to tell your friends!! Things like this will alter your entire family's attitude and make a misadventure in to a family favorite memory.
Our family adventures are some of my favorite times with the kids. Not everything goes according to plan, someone is always mad at me at some point, and I usually ask myself "Why did we do this?" at least once. Even with all of that, I know that in the end the kids will never regret going (nor will I), memories are being made, and the time we are spending together is what matters most and builds our family unity.
Now go out and find somewhere to hike with kids! Chin up! You CAN do this!!
(And if you have experienced nothing even close to an uprising -- kudos to you and your family!! You should get a gold medal and I'm not even joking! We really need to find where we can get those...you know, gold medals.)
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