There are many advantages to talking to your kids about serious issues while driving in the car. At home, kids have a way of escaping the conversation, excusing themselves to do their homework or chores. In the car, however, they are your captive audience for the duration of the drive. Many of the common distractions are limited and easily eliminated, and you have a little more control in this setting. They can’t leave in the middle of a talk, no matter how much they might want to.
Also, while it’s always good to have a face-to-face conversation with your child, when it comes to important, but sensitive topics, having both the parent and child looking straight ahead can create an environment in which your child feels more free to talk.
Whether your ride is short or long, it’s best not to jump right into the serious discussion just as soon as you start the engine. Your kids will quickly associate a drive with you with these less-than-enjoyable talks and will do their best to avoid the conversation.
Start the ride by turning up the radio volume and listening to some music together. This creates a relaxed atmosphere and is still time well spent with your child. You can also engage in small talk by asking them how their day was at school, what their plans are for the weekend, or how their new soccer coach is working out.
A good rule of thumb is that as the miles increase, so do the talks that you have with your kids. Start simply and talk about topics that best suits your child’s age. Remember to ask questions, which helps the discussion become less of a lecture. Asking questions also gives children the chance to be more involved in the conversation, rather than it being one-sided.
For example, if the discussion is about drugs, ask your child if he knows about a certain drug or whether anyone he knows is using drugs. This takes the focus off him and makes the subject less personal.
Another benefit of having a talk in the car is that time can be on your—or your child’s—side. For instance, during a quick trip to the grocery store, you’ll only have time to discuss more general topics such as school and friends. While these conversations are short, they still create opportunities for parents to find out what’s going on in their child’s life, which can lead to more in-depth conversations later.
On longer trips, like summer vacation road trips or drives to an out-of-town sports or school function, you can take advantage of the miles and have a long discussion about more serious and important issues.
In time, your car could become a safe, familiar place where your children know they can talk to you about anything, whether it’s simply about their day or about if they’ve been pressured to try drugs. The key is to create an environment where they feel comfortable to share and be engaged in the conversation.
By // Kyle Johnson