As a parent, you spend hours behind the wheel chauffeuring your kids to and from school, soccer practice, dance class, school clubs and more. And the more children you have, the more hectic the schedule.
Setting up a carpool with other parents can bring some much-needed relief. Trust me, with four teenagers of our own, my husband and I could never have survived parenting this long without them. Follow these tried and true tips, and establishing a carpool can be an easy process that gives you more free time.
1. Form a Group
Parents usually spend the most time driving to and from school, so ask your circle of friends or turn to a neighborhood social media group to find other families at your school. To coordinate rides for extracurricular activities, you can chat with parents at practice or after meetings to see if there’s a match for an afterschool or weekend carpool. You might not find someone in the same neighborhood but looking within a few miles is doable. For any carpool, see if families have similar schedules and decide if you would feel comfortable with your children sharing rides with them.
2. Create a Schedule
Once you have a group of potential carpool parents, narrow down the list to candidates who work best for your location and schedule. Host a brief meeting with the families in case some don’t know each other well. Use this time to ask questions and plan a driving rotation. Openly discuss expectations so there will be no confusion down the line. Some parents might only be able to do drop off or pick up, so designate those responsibilities when making the schedule. Use an online sign up sheet if you have a large carpool group or inconsistent schedules. This makes coordinating drivers simple and minimizes confusion by sending automatic reminders and digital calendar integrations.
3. Set Driver Rules
Create rules to keep everyone on the same page — and make sure they are consistently enforced. For example, establish regular pick-up and drop-off locations and emphasize that carpool is just that — no running errands. Other things to consider: Make it clear that only parents can drive the group (no teen siblings). Ensure that all children are buckled up and that any child who needs a booster seat has one. Ask your children (delicately) after the first week about other parents’ driving practices to make sure the kids are in a safe environment.
4. Keep an Open Dialogue
Kids (and parents) get sick, work schedules change and sometimes emergencies happen that can alter the carpool schedule. Establish a plan to let other parents know if you are running a few minutes late or won’t be able to make the pickup or drop-off time. A child being left behind can be a traumatic event, so err on the side of over communication with this one.
5. Create Passenger Rules
Establish rules for the kids in the carpool. Children should be respectful, use inside voices and keep their hands and feet to themselves. If parents agree, allow kids to have a healthy snack in the car, but do not try to be the fun parent and give out candy. Be aware of any allergies in your carpool and avoid those food groups. And don’t forget to have fun! Make the ride enjoyable by allowing the kids to choose songs or car games to play.
Carpool is usually a relaxed time for kids to connect with each other after their activities and a great time for parents to hear how their kids are doing in social situations. Plus, a well-organized carpool can be a lifesaver for busy parents.