6 Tips for Talking to Kids in Cars

An auto is a great place to communicate with your children. 

By Boys Ranch Trainer Joshua Sprock

With the holidays coming up, many of us will increase the amount of driving we do, meaning there will be plenty of time to talk to kids in our cars. 

We could be driving to and from holiday programs and parties, driving to stores for shopping, or we could be making those those long drives to go visit families and friends back home.

Some parents find this prospect intimidating, but I urge you to look at it as an opportunity to have some meaningful conversation that could lead to special bonding moments.

Seating in cars naturally provides side-by-side communication. The patterned, repetitive, and rhythmic sound and feel of a car on the road is regulating.  Many parents have used driving to get their babies to fall asleep.

Try these six tips to communicate with your children.

1. Be prepared. Have a set of topics prepared to talk about. Start by asking questions about positive events going on in their lives or something fun they are doing. 

2. Know your child’s interests, and be interested in them. My daughters are really into their music right now. 

I would never choose to listen to their type of music if they weren’t in the car with me, but I know they are really passionate about it.

I try my hardest to stay present and engaged when they tell me about their favorite music groups.

3. Allow them to drive the conversation. If your child goes off on a tangent, do not be afraid to see where it goes. Your child might have been waiting for a safe opportunity to talk to you.

4. Avoid giving advice. I struggle with trying to control the conversation by sermonizing or trying to give unsolicited advice.

While it is well-intentioned, it rarely is received well. I have found it works better if I ask permission before offering advice. 

I say, “Can I tell you how I would handle this situation?”  Doing this it gives your child some power and control in the situation so they are more likely to hear what you have to say.

An aerial drone image shows a road below. Photo from Pixabay.

5. Be honest but not judgmental. Don’t take things personally. This is extremely important when you talk to teenagers; they rarely think about what they are going to say and can say things that are hurtful or offensive.  You have to let those things go so your relationship survives to teach another day.

6. Use humor. Playful engagement is a great way to build rapport with kids. 

I would just caution you to be careful with humor.  Sarcasm can be a difficult concept to grasp for some kids, and often it backfires when they do not get the joke.  

About the Author

Joshua Sprock began work for Boys Ranch as a houseparent in 2005.

He then worked as a campus life supervisor before accepting a role as a trainer five years ago. He has earned a bachelor’s of science in education.

Sprock is a master facilitator in the Satori Method of Managing Aggression, a Neurosequential Model Trainer and a licensed childcare administrator.

Joshua Sprock is a trainer at Boys Ranch.

6 Tips for Talking to Kids in Cars

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