Road trips have been a tradition in my family for years. It started as a great way to ensure the toddler version of kiddo had new experiences. As he transitioned from childhood into adolescence, these adventures became an important way of communicating. Around age 12 he realized that awkward conversations are less intimidating when either party can change the subject by shouting, “Look! A cow!” Unless it’s obviously not a cow—that would be super awkward.
People underestimate the power of sharing space without any expectation to entertain.
Spending hours in the car gave kiddo a familiar place to talk, or simply enjoy being still with someone else. Topics would flow organically and be silly or serious.
Talking to someone without facing them changes the dynamic. Sitting side-by-side has the benefit of reading personal cues (raised eyebrow, smile, side-wink), while lessening direct eye-contact. It’s a more equal balance. Everyone is along for the same journey.
Think about the last time you had a deep, meaningful exchange with someone. Chances are it wasn’t during a 15-minute phone call. Conversations need time to develop and take shape. Listening to music, natural lulls, or playing the ‘alphabet’ game all provide conversational reset points.
Eventually, whatever happens to be on their minds will bubble to the top.
When your child starts talking … listen. Basic communication skill, I know, but one that many parents miss out on. We become so caught up in the script with our kids that any nuance is lost. Adults tend to think about their responses and predict—often wrongly—the direction a child’s thought process is taking. Kids aren’t bound by the same cognitive laws of physics.
Let your child tell you the stories of their minds.
At times, it might look like your child is completely checked out. Maybe they are. But mental breaks often lead to fresh perspectives. Let them use this unencumbered road trip time as an ‘off-leash’ park for thoughts.
If all else fails, start singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” until someone sees a cow.
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