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Family Fun
Family Fun

Making the most of a tedious bus ride

Your daughter spends 45 minutes each way on the bus to middle school. Is there a way for her to minimize the boredom?

Parent advice

(from our panel of staff contributors)

Books. Really good ones. Maybe agree to buy her extra ones if she reads a certain amount.

Mark Caro

Encourage her to get her homework done on the way home. In this day and age of electronic devices, she should be able to listen to music, read books, watch movies/television shows, draw and do homework with no trouble. Or seek out a great friend and sit with her, talk, giggle, gossip and perhaps play games together on an electronic device.

Dodie Hofstetter

I remember, dimly, a couple years of 45-minute bus rides, so I can sympathize. And the bouncing and diesel exhaust meant reading was a surefire way to get carsick, so that's out. I suppose the new post-parenting school of parenting would say, "What's the trouble with boredom? Kids need to be bored more."

— Doug George

Expert advice

"It's basically the same thing as a grown-up trying to use a commute so that time's not wasted," says time management expert Laura Vanderkam, author of "168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think" (Portfolio).

And because she's not stuck in the driver's seat, your daughter has a number of options. One of them is to do nothing.

"Some kids are more introverted by nature, and they really will enjoy having the time to stare out the window," Vanderkam says. "Especially if at school there's the back-and-forth of dealing with other children and teachers and having to be 'on' all day. Many kids have a rich inner life and riding the bus can help them access that."

Other kids will be driven mad by the monotony.

"If your kid doesn't get carsick, reading is the best way to use the time," Vanderkam says. "It's a great time to read the stuff you're not going to read at school and probably won't take time to read at home. Get your child hooked on some really enjoyable series — less intellectually rigorous, but still fun."

The bus, with its bumps and stops and obnoxious peer group members, isn't necessarily the place to tackle Tolstoy, after all.

If reading-induced nausea is an issue, a device — particularly with headphones — is a good option.

"You can try to get your kid interested in listening to stories or music that you pick out together," Vanderkam says.

Don't sweat it if she wants to use the time for some frivolity, though: gossiping with pals, listening to pop music, paging through a magazine. The ride is a built-in buffer between the rigors of school and the evening routine of homework and extra-curriculars. Nothing wrong with a little downtime.

"Lower your standards a little bit," Vanderkam suggests. "Whatever she's doing just has to be better than distracting the bus driver."

Have a solution?

Your son was held back a year. How can you ease the burden of returning to the same grade while all his friends have moved on? Email us at parenthood@tribune.com. Find "The Parent 'Hood" page on Facebook, where you can post your parenting questions and offer tips and solutions for others to try.

Copyright © 2015, CT Now
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