I'm a psychologist and here's the unusual reason kids cry on long car rides – and how to prevent it | The Sun

A PSYCHOLOGIST has revealed the real and surprising reason kids hate long car journeys.

Every parent dreads the inevitable, “are we there yet?”.

But fortunately, there are ways to prevent it.

Ruth Ogden, a reader and associate professor of experimental psychology, Liverpool John Moores University, gave a detailed insight into a child’s brain on a long road.

She wrote in The Conversation: “One reason is that our experience of time changes as we age, often resulting in the sensation of time passing more quickly as we get older.

“This is typified by the sensation that ‘Christmas comes around more quickly each year’.

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“Time is thought to pass more quickly as we age because, with increasing age, any duration of time becomes a smaller proportion of our life to date.

“For example, at seven years old, a year is 14.30 per cent of your entire life; at 70 years old it's only 1.43 per cent of your life.

“As such, a five-hour car journey may feel longer to a five-year-old than to a 50-year-old, simply because it is a greater proportion of the five-year-old's life.”

As well as this, children do not have an understanding of geography like adults do, and are therefore unable to use it as a marker of time.

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On a journey from Manchester to Devon, an adult would be able to use Birmingham or London as an indicator that they are about half way to their destination.

“The absence of this knowledge in children means that they are more reliant on asking adults how long is left to judge the progress of the trip,” Prof Ogden said.

This uncertainty can further give the impression of time passing by slow.

Adults can compare this same feeling of uncertainty to when they are at baggage reclaim at an airport, and the luggage is yet to roll out.

You are more likely to be inpatient if you do not know when the luggage is coming, than if you do.

“It's the not knowing, the lack of control, that causes these events to drag,” Prof Ogden said.

“Time is more often uncertain for children, so without something to distract themselves, they'll fixate on the progress of any journey.”

Lastly, children are more likely to get bored sitting in the back of the car with nothing to do, while adults may savour the peace and quiet.

Prof Ogden said: “When we're bored, our persistent clock-watching makes time feel like it is crawling by.

“Conversely, when we are happily occupied, we pay little attention to time because our attentional capacity prioritises other things. As a result, time flies by when we have fun.”

How to stop a tantrum in the car

It comes after scientists devised a mathematical formula to prevent or delay toddler tantrums.

Academics at Nottingham Trent University quizzed 2,000 parents and found it takes an average of 32 minutes for a kid to ask: “Are we nearly there yet?”

The average child throws a wobbly after an hour and ten minutes, according to the research commissioned by insurancer LV= Britannia Rescue.

But while siblings in the car accelerate a kick off, snacks and entertainment stall one.

Collecting their findings, the team put together a formula: T = 70 + 0.5E + 15F – 10S.

It means the time (T) to tantrum is 70 minutes, but this can be delayed by entertainment (E), as chances of a tantrum were reduced every minute a child was entertained.

Food (F) gave parents a further 15 minutes.

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But siblings (S) will speed up the onset of a tantrum by ten minutes, causing your little one to break into a screaming and crying fit in less than an hour.

Read more tips on how to relax children on a car ride here.

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