Car Ride Conversations: Meaningful Connection Time with Kids

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By Jessica Golba, MSW, LSW – March 13, 2024

Car rides with your kiddos can be the perfect opportunity to have meaningful conversations. You will have their undivided attention and can discuss a variety of topics. Since you are not looking directly at them, they will be more apt to share.

I suggest keeping the radio at a low volume or letting them choose the music. You will most likely be vying for attention from devices, music, or other kids. When possible, get them one-on-one, even if you are only running an errand to the bank or grocery store. If your teen is getting their license, ask them to drive you.  Most jump at the chance to get driving time, and this will ensure they are device free.

Here are some tips and ideas for topics to bring up during car rides:

1. Ask them about their day and how school is going. Ask open-ended questions. Limit the amount of yes/no questions, or all you will get are yes/no answers.

2. Talk about their hobbies and interests. They may balk at talking about themselves at first, but keep at it!

3. Ask if they have thought about what kind of job they want in the distant future. What about during high school? Tell them about your first job. I am always pointing out the orchard where I first worked, so often that my kids can tell the story on their own now.

3. Share stories about your teenage years. If you see the make and model of your first car, you must point it out…that’s the rule.  

4. Discuss current events or social issues. Refrain from judging and respect their viewpoint on the issues. Offer your view as an opinion, not fact.

5. Ask fun/silly questions, such as: “If you won the lottery, what would you do with the money?” “What kind of animal would you want when you are on your own and what would you name it?”

6. Use the time to teach them important life skills like budgeting or changing a tire. With non-licensed kiddos, explain how a 4-way stop works, how to parallel park, and point out common road courtesy. These things can help in the future when they are learning to drive.

7. Listen, listen, and listen. The ironic thing about not asking too many questions is that you will get more answers by remaining silent and letting your child talk. If they are willing to open up about issues they are having, let them talk. Asking too many questions can sometimes make a teen feel as if they are being judged or didn’t do the “right thing” because you are questioning them.

8. In general, keep the topics light so that when you have to discuss something more serious they are already used to listening to you (and hearing what you have to say).

9. When in doubt, bad “Dad jokes” will at least get an eye roll, such as, “You know what bugs me? Insect puns.”

Remember, the key to having great conversations with your kids in the car is to be a good listener and show genuine interest in what they say. With some effort, car rides with your kids can become some of the best conversations you will ever have.