James Van Der Beek's Viral Parenting Hack for Roadtripping With Six Kids

The Dawson’s Creek star’s secret? A color-coded system for expressing his stress level.
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By Wyndi Kappes, Assistant Editor
Published July 26, 2022
James Van Der Beek attends the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Festival at T-Mobile Arena on September 20, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada
Image: Isaac Brekken/Getty Images

Former Dawson’s Creek star James Van Der Beek understands summer parenting stress. For the past few weeks, Van Der Beek and his wife Kimberly have toted all six of their kids around in an RV for the classic American road trip. Between his 9-month-old’s sleep regression, cracked windshields, tantrums, and tears, it’s no surprise that the proud father has had to come up with some interesting new parenting strategies to manage the chaos.

In an Instagram post made last week, Van Der Beek spoke candidly about the difficulties of the trip, saying that he’s had “so many moments of frustration with the kids” before sharing his now viral parenting hack, a verbal color-coded warning system.

Van Deer Beek explains that his color-coded system is used to let his kids know how much patience he has left. “I.e. “Guys, I’m at an orange, please put your shoes on,” the actor shared as an example in the caption before adding, “Pretty sure this is not great parenting, but it is a survival tactic.”

However, many parents seem to disagree with Van Der Beek’s caveat that “this is not great parenting.” Commenters sang praises of his inventive communication tactics and sympathized with the fact that sometimes parenting is more survival than a well-planned strategy. One commenter, an early childhood educator, added, “The color system is actually on point. Expressing how you’re feeling and giving people (your tiny humans) a heads up is VERY healthy.”

Another educator pointed out that Van Der Beek’s color-coded warning system is often used in schools and referred to as Zones of Regulation, a system that helps kids identify and manage their emotions and big feelings (i.e. red for intense emotions like anger and green for calm states like feeling proud or content). Adding if this method is used with kids, “Why not use them for parents too? This is genius, and I’m going to start!”

It’s not all stress and struggles, though. Van Der Beek also notes, “In between… we’ve stumbled into moments of pure joy. Of discovery. Of freedom. It’s amazing how life can surprise you if you remain dogged about not getting stuck in a moment. Because sometimes…the magic lies just on the other side of chaos.”

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