Remember when your kids would talk your ear off, say the darndest things, tell you often how much they love you? Well, things change. Getting older kids, especially teens, to talk at all can be tricky. Pinning them down for a heart-to-heart is a feat. That is, unless you get them in the car.
Cruising down the road with your child is a surefire way to find out what’s really going in their life. There are fewer distractions, kids can’t squirm away (at least physically), and there’s a limited amount of time to tackle the topic at hand.
“People say things in a car that they’d never say to someone on the street because there is a perceived separation.”
Plus, people tend to feel more comfortable in cars than in other places, says Fred Peipman, Ph.D., a family psychologist in San Francisco and author of Parenting Across the Gap: Raising Teens in the 21st Century. “You are out and about in the world and at the same time a bit isolated, so people can be somewhat disinhibited,” Peipman says. “People say things in a car that they’d never say to someone on the street because there is a perceived separation. This is not so good for road rage, but for a parent-child discussion dynamic, it’s great.”
Car rides also ease the parent-child power imbalance — by getting rid of eye contact and offering a shared sense of purpose. “Few situations highlight the power dynamic more than facing someone else. When the child is beside or behind the parent, it is a bit easier to talk freely,” says Peipman. To add to that, “you are moving together which can lead to the psychological or…