The most disturbing thing about a new survey of parental behaviour isn’t the fact that when holidaying with kids we park them in front of devices, feed them on fat and sugar so they lapse into comas, offer bribes so they shut up, and knock them out with cough medicine for the sake of peace on a long-haul flight.
The shocking truth is that only 56 per cent of parents surveyed owned up to such classic strategies. And the other 44 per cent are probably lying!
And surely, such mendacity does neither our children nor the national good any favours.
The findings come from a survey of 1076 Australian parents by HotelsCombined so it’s industry-driven research that even-handedly serves both the desperate, but honest, parent who just wants half an hour to themselves when the hula-dancers do their thing; and the other half of the population who pretend they’re raising their kids as a world-bettering social experiment.
Lynette Bolton, mother of Siarra, 5 and Piper, 2, and wife of Sydney Swans Hall of Fame inductee Jude Bolton, is wary of the research.
“When I saw the survey results, the first thing I thought was: ‘people aren’t telling the truth’. Maybe that’s my guilty conscience talking, because I do a fair few of these things,” she said.
“I’m happy to admit the things do. I give them a DVD player for the plane, colouring-in books, and I’ll have a few more treats for them. If I’m on a plane I want to survive. I want to get there with minimum hurt for everyone.”
So far, the Boltons have restricted their overseas family travel to a four-hour trip, and haven’t been challenged with sleep issues. Lynette doesn’t think she’d go the medicating route − using antihistamines such as Phenergan, cough medicines or prescribed sedation.
The latter is the preferred option by some doctors concerned about side effects of antihistamines. Ten per cent of surveyed parents of kids under the age of four have given medication to encourage sleep. Lynette prefers using a lavender spray as a relaxation tool.
“My husband pretends to go to sleep so I don’t keep spraying him.”
Medication – dos and don’ts
Amanda Cox writes Diary of a Mad Cow, a low-hysteria mummy blog. She reckons medication is okay under advice – and if the child actually needs help to sleep.
“Kids need sleep,” she says. “That’s a reality. If there is a need to give your child something, great … while the medical profession is divided by it, there also social pressures to give kids something on a long flight for everybody else’s sake.
“It’s a big issue on the blogs. I think it’s fine on a case-by-case basis, where the welfare of the child is the prime motivation.”
Maybe parents should take the sleeping pills and let the kids run riot in what is a closed environment.
“Exactly,” Ms Cox says. “They should just hand out sleeping pills on planes and everyone will be happy.”
For her own children, if they’re not coping up in the air, she offers a motion sickness medicine called Travel Calm – which she takes herself.
Ms Cox says the reticence by some people to own up to bribing their kids with fast food and treats, or plonking them down with an iPad is in part old-fashioned embarrassment.
But it’s also a consequence of the rise of the “sancti-mummy” who not only takes a puritan approach to parenting, but is ready to pour scorn on mums and dads who might cave in to unhealthy indulgences for the sake of their own mental health.
She notes that children also benefit from parents who are chilled out. Her strategy is to park her children with their grandparents and go to a hotel room with her husband.