Our family is so busy with school, work, sports, activities and social gatherings that we are always on the go! As a matter of fact, some days I feel like I am in my car more than any other place! With that said, most of the quality time I spend with my kids is in the car. Especially as they get older and appreciate their privacy and down time at home, the car ride seems to be the only place that I can take advantage of connecting with them.
But, if your kids are like mine, as soon as they get into the car, they pull out their phones and start looking at Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube, and you’ve lost them to the world of social media. Asking questions like, ‘How was your day?’ and ‘How was school?’ only gets answers such as ‘Fine’ and ‘Good’. I don’t know about you but this is not what I call engaging conversation!
I have found that I need to get creative to urge them to hold a conversation with me. It may seem sneaky, but the car seems to the best place to do it. I mean, we have to be in the car together anyway, and where else can you get their undivided attention? It’s not like they can leave!
5 Ways to Connect
- Ask them questions – I know. This is an obvious one, but it’s a little complicated, especially as your kids get older. Asking yes/no questions is the quickest way to either end the conversation or sound like an interrogation asking question after question after question (you get the point.) The best way to spark a conversation with them is to ask OPEN-ENDED questions. It’s kind of like interviewing someone. You can’t get any insight if you don’t ask questions that warrant a thoughtful answer. Not sure that open-ended questions you should ask? Here are a few to get you started:
- What did you do today?
- Who did you hang out with/play with?
- What was the best part of your day so far today?
- What did you work on in math class?
- What things did you and your friends talk about today?
- Keep in mind that the follow up questions to these answers should be open-ended as well!
- Let them play their music – Music is an amazing way for children of all ages to express themselves. Their taste in music is as unique as they are as people! We usually give our kids an opportunity to play music that they have downloaded on their phones as a way to give them some control in the car. Because it’s up to them to find the song they want to listen to, it gives me insight to how they are potentially feeling in the moment. That will usually either spark a conversation or gives me an opportunity to connect with them on something they like.
- Take them for a treat of their choosing – At my kids ages, their favorite quick treat is either at Jamba Juice or Starbucks. It may be ice cream or cookies for your kids. But ask them where they want to go, and take time to actually sit with them and enjoy the treat, if you have time. It’s amazing when you sit with a Jamba Juice across the table from your teenager, and it’s only you and him, what he is willing to talk about! There are times when I purposefully plan appointments with time in between so we HAVE to sit and ‘waste time’ while we wait for the next appointment.
- Talk about what your doing – As mom’s we put our kids first, as we should, but have a tendency to forget that we are people too! Especially as your kids get older, they like to feel that they are having a conversation with you, not that just we are drilling them with questions. I find that when I talk to my kids about how the blog is going, or how dance class was, or something that happened to me during the day, they are truly interested in what I am saying and are more willing to respond with something about themselves.
- Play a game – There are many car games that you can play, depending on your kids ages. The idea of the game is getting them talking and engaging in conversation. You may not uncover any major information, but the casual, fun atmosphere will help your kids open up. When our kids were younger, our go-to games were ‘Eye Spy’ and the ‘Alphabet Bulletin Board’. We still do the alphabet bulletin board on long car rides, but our new game is ‘Name that Tune’. Whoever is sitting in the front passenger seat has to cover the name and artist of a song and we try to be the first to guess right.
Being able to connect with our kids and stay informed on what is going on in their lives is important to me. The older our children get, the more I realize that I have to find new ways to accomplish this. As our kids begin to creep closer and closer to 16, I get worried about not having their undivided attention in the car. Pretty soon I’m going to have to find a new creative way to connect with my kids!
What do you do to connect with your kids? I love to hear your suggestions!