“Wesley tried to kiss Abby on the lips today and got in big, big trouble.”
My first grader declared these words as we drove to school one morning, and my grip on the steering wheel tightened. We’re only in first grade and talking about kissing already?!
Despite the rash reaction I wanted to give, I took a deep breath and calmly asked my daughter, “What would you do if a boy tried that with you?”
“I’d run away and tell a teacher.”
Good girl, I thought and affirmed her choice with my words. Pretty soon my fourth-grade son piped up with a rundown of the boyfriend-girlfriend combinations in his class, and our discussion during the morning car ride turned surprisingly more interesting.
For some reason, deep conversations with my kids always seem to happen in the car. Whether it’s a discussion about boyfriends and girlfriends or something else entirely, I’ve learned to embrace the moments I’m given as I drive from one place to the next.
If you spend a lot of time in the car with your kids, here are four ways you can keep an open dialogue:
1. Pay attention to their moods and adjust the radio accordingly.
I’m a huge fan of listening to music while I drive, but if my kids aren’t feeling it, I adjust. When they ask a loaded question or share something deep, I turn off the radio completely so I can give them my full attention. Some moms listen to audiobooks with their kids, and as a result, great discussions happen.
2. Keep distractions to a minimum.
Outside of long road trips, our family keeps screens to an absolute minimum in our car. This is important for many reasons, especially safety, but it also fosters a welcoming environment for simply being together as a family. Without movies playing in the backseat or games being played on phones, my kids have open space to talk about what’s on their minds.
3. Ask creative questions to get them talking.
I’ll admit I sometimes fall into the trap of asking, “Did you have a good day?” While it’s a start, it often results in a quick yes or no response. I’ve gotten more creative with my questions to learn more. “Who made you laugh at lunch today?” “If you could send any classmate to Mars, who would you pick?”
For teenagers you might ask questions like, “Which class made you want to fall asleep today?” or “What was the grossest looking thing at lunch?” These questions may not seem overly deep, but their nonthreatening nature can lead to what’s really on your kids’ minds.
4. Comment about things you see and follow where your kids lead.
One time as I drove my daughter to dance class, I commented about how beautiful the sunset was. She stayed quiet in the backseat for a minute and then said, “I miss Great Grandma.”
Not sure how she got from the sunset to my grandma’s recent passing, I followed along and said, “I miss her too.”
“Do you think she has a special section in heaven just for her?” my daughter asked.
My throat thickened with emotion. “I’m sure she does. I bet she loves everything about it, don’t you?”
“Yep. And I can’t wait to get to heaven and see her again someday.”
Every week after that, our drive to dance class revolved around heaven and clouds and wondering what room Great Grandma might be enjoying up there. When I commented about the sunset that first time, I made a simple observation about what my eyes saw, but my daughter’s mind was processing something much bigger.
Taxiing our kids from place to place may feel like a burden sometimes. But it can be a great time to connect, deepen bonds, and answer those hard questions that we might otherwise miss. Drive on, Mama, and keep listening.
Journeying with you,
Let’s talk! What are some of your favorite moments in the car with your kids? What creative questions do you ask your kids to find out how their day went?