Getting out of the house with small children is no small undertaking. Parenting from the comfort of your own home is a safe space, where you can be you, you can handle (mostly) anything that your little ones hand to you throughout the day, and you have all the tools and resources readily available at your fingertips should you need them. Getting out of the house, especially to unfamiliar places can be a huge source of anxiety for mothers, especially as a new mother or as you add more to your family.
What should we do? Where should we go? What should we bring? How far is the drive? What will we do when we get there? Will the kids have fun? Will I have fun? What if something unexpected comes up? What if I forget something? Can I handle it? These are the questions that can stop parents from adventuring with their children. The fear of the unknown and the fear of failure are the biggest barrier for parents getting out and adventuring with kids.
Dr. Cassidy Freitas, MFT, describes it this way, “Getting out of the house can be anxiety provoking for some parents. When our own children cry, it elicits a physiological stress response that's supposed to be protective and facilitate attunement to our child's needs. It can be even more stressful when we venture out of the comfort of our own homes, for fear of judgement or being unprepared. I love the metaphor of a road trip. Imagine you get in the car and in the passenger seat jumps in adventure and joy and curiosity. Then the back door opens and in crawls fear and anxiety. Fear and anxiety might want to jump in the driver seat and keep you from moving towards your value of adventure.
However, with love and support, grace and acceptance, you CAN get out of your struggle with anxiety and engage with your adventurous values and your family!"
Below are 7 tips on how to get over the fear and anxiety that is holding you back from adventuring with your kids:
1. Do it daily!
The more often you adventure and the more it becomes a habit, the more it will become a part of your daily routine. Go out regardless of the weather or whether you have definite plans. The more you adventure out, the more confident you will become.
2. Start small.
You don’t have to go anywhere in particular, instead start with familiar adventures nearby. Explore your yard, take a walk around the neighborhood, or go to the local park if that’s all you have the time and energy to do. Doing it often will enable you to grow in your confidence and make the big trips more manageable.
3. Plan family activities.
One of the challenges of adventuring with multiple children is finding activities and outings that interest different ages. I have a 5 ½ year old, a newly turned 2 year old and a 4 month old infant. Needless to say, they are all at different developmental and ability levels as well as having different interests and attention spans which can make finding things that everyone enjoys a challenge. Choose activities that the entire family can enjoy: bike rides and scootering, nature walks, the playground, or an open space park are a few of our favorite options that all ages can enjoy.
If you aren’t used to taking them all out on your own, then start somewhere that has something for everyone in one place (I usually like places with lots of open space). Try a non-crowded playground that has an open field beside it. Find a place for a blanket as a central location and then let the kids explore or play on the playground together. You will find the more time your children spend exploring together, the more they will get used to taking turns on activities (it’s a great way for them to learn empathy, compromise, and working together).
As your confidence grows and your children have had practice on sticking together, taking turns, and compromising on activities, you will find yourself ready to take on smaller and more crowded places like museums.
4. Find community.
Finding friends that enjoy adventuring and being outdoors in nature is a great way to find encouragement, support, and comradery. When you aren’t doing it alone and you have someone else encouraging you to meet or join them in activities, it makes it easier to actually get out and do things. If you don't have an "adventure buddy", ask a friend of a friend or look on Facebook or Meetup for Mom and Nature Playgroups (see more on that here)!
5. Be flexible.
Things might not always go as planned so be open to change. Children are flexible in nature and tend to go with the flow. Follow their lead when things go awry!
6. Be prepared.
Being prepared is another step in helping you to feel more confident when adventuring with kids. Snacks, water, extra clothes, and sunscreen are just the few basic necessities that you will need to bring with you on your adventures. Check out this post for my tips on a successful outing with kids.
7. Don't Wait for the Perfect Moment
If you keep saying one day we will do this or when this happens then I'll do it or when the kids are this age or when they are potty-trained or when etc. etc. etc., then chances are it won't happen. Don't postpone it. There is no perfect moment.
And when it comes to adventuring with your kids, remember these 3 things...
1. BE CONFIDENT IN YOUR Parenting.
Only you know your child best and how to meet his or her needs. Be confident in your parenting decisions and try not to worry about what anyone else thinks. It doesn't mean that you will always know the right things to say or the perfect way to react and respond. It definitely doesn't mean that you never make mistakes or lose your cool. Being confident in your parenting means that you send the message to your child that "You've got them and you're in control of your own emotions." Stay confident regardless of who is watching you. You do you!
2. You don't have to be the “outdoorsy” type.
Another thing that can hold mothers back from adventuring with their children is that they don’t consider themselves to be the outdoorsy/adventuring type,but the responsibility for our child’s relationship with nature lies with us! If WE love nature, and prioritize it, if we run barefoot in the grass and climb trees and lie and look at the stars, our children will too. You don't have to own a pair of hiking books to enjoy a nature walk with your kids or be the type that loves camping to lay in the grass and stargaze with your children.
3. Be ok with mess!
Clothing can be washed, the car can be vacuumed out, and shoes can be replaced....but the memories that you make adventuring with your children will remain forever.