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Reframing The Mundane: The Car As A Communication Aide

Have you ever tried talking to a teenager? No I’m serious. And when I say talk to, what I mean is have a conversation with. Mind you, this is totally different from talking down or giving orders or instruction to. This is a two-sided conversation, as in, you speak and they respond in more than mono-syllabic  fashion. In the event you have not, let me warn you now, it’s friggin’ hard.

I feel uniquely qualified to talk about this because as the mother of two teens, I’m quite familiar with the amount of energy required to DRAG words out of their mouths. I know firsthand the frustration of feeling like I’m talking to myself and the ache of wishing they’d let me into their world, even if for a short visit.

What happened to my babies, the ones who used to run to me and throw their arms around me with reckless abandon? The ones who were proud to hold my hand, no matter where we were or who was watching? They’re long gone now, a fact I knew but was underscored the other day when I picked up my sick daughter from school. As we were walking to the car, I slipped my hand into hers because I wanted to make her feel better, to let her know her mom was there and all would be okay. But I committed the sin of doing it on the campus of her high school and no sooner had I latched onto her fingers, she wriggled out of my grasp. I didn’t make a big deal of it but I was aware of the group of upperclassmen watching us walk through the parking lot. So was Casey.

So I came up with a strategy and it’s one I implore Buff to use too every time I hear him trying too hard. Just relax. Let them come to you because eventually they do. And one of the best places for that to happen is in the car.

Who knew the car, the vehicle with which we use to get from point A to point B would be the very thing that would aid in communication? How could we possibly know that the mundane aspect of driving to a destination could help bridge the gap between parents and teen? Yet that is exactly what happens.

Why is that? I have my ideas. First, I think because all eye’s are forward which makes it easier to talk about big issues. I think a life lesson, tucked in between a verse of Justin Bieber’s “Baby”, though no less important, is a bit easier to absorb and be less embarrassed by. And every so often in the car, said teenagers actually start a conversation, ask a question or impart an unsolicited thought. And it makes me feel good.

How do you get your teens to open up? Does it happen very often and when it does, are you surprised by what they say?

I’m thrilled to be partnering with Hallmark in 2012 for its “Life Is A Special Occasion” campaign. Of course, the characters in my rantings are real and the opinions are all my own.


  1. Rachel - A Southern Fairytale

    January 30, 2012 at 7:41 pm

    Some of my favorite conversations with my (now) husband when we were dating were held in the car while on the long drives between our respective towns.

    I can absolutely see this, love how you wrote this

  2. Mike McGinley

    January 30, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Those are times in the car to and from soccer practice are some of my most memorable parts of growing up!

  3. Dawn B

    January 30, 2012 at 9:20 pm

    Love this! That picture is priceless! I am glad that I have 14 years spanning from my oldest to my youngest for this very reason. I can get in some snuggle time from my baby when the teens (Grumps) rebuff my affections. I will be crushed when I get my first public rejection from my littlest sweetheart.

  4. Karen Baitch Rosenberg

    January 30, 2012 at 10:12 pm

    As elementary-aged children, our communication was most honest at bedtime, laying side-by-side, in the dark. It seemed a safe place for them to be most honest. Like you said about facing forward in the car, we’d stare at the ceiling in the dark. The neutrality of the dark, combined with snuggling or holding hands making it safe at the same time ~ the car is a good place, but not if conversations get emotional. Mommy/daughter or daddy/daughter dates out are also opportune times to gain into their world. The car is the best place to hear kids talk among themselves, too – as the driver, you become eventually invisible for a while. Now my teen and her friends try to text eachother event though they’re in the same car, just so I can’t listen in!

  5. Ella Rucker

    January 30, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    There was one big thing that the ten year old only told me or asked me in the car. It was so deep and personal… You nailed this one.

    I also like having conversations when I’m cooking. I’m distracted which speaks to the notion that they want us there, but if we are too “there” (i.e. the dark) they can’t connect. Interesting. I never realized that’s why those conversations were so great.

  6. Pontificating Brother

    January 31, 2012 at 7:54 am

    Funny that this is so teenage son and I spend many hours in the SUV traveling to soccer matches throughout Ohio. Last year I implemented a no electronics rule when traveling to the destination. At first, he gave me a little push back because he felt that I was taking away from his time to relax before a match (which is important). I shared with him that it was a great opportunity to connect because it was just us with very little interruption. He reluctantly relented, but now he mostly looks forward to the time to talk. Any subject is except-able and we don’t pull punches. I am hopeful that he will look back one day and see the time we spent together in the car was Love. I’m his father, but those times are the times when I get to share some of my fears and my stumbles. I know he is going to be a great man one day and I am hopefully he will spend the time talking to his son or daughter in a similar way.

    With that said, my baby girl is eight and I know we will share those minutes together too. But I’m sure they will be different, she has a different spirit…LOL

  7. Liz

    February 1, 2012 at 12:41 pm

    Yes, I have 3 teens (and 1 tween) so, we go for long drives to nowhere a lot. Love this!

  8. Kristen

    February 2, 2012 at 2:40 am

    My kids aren’t teens yet, but when we are alone in the car, with the music off, is some of the most chatty times with them ever. My husband and I always love running errands with just one kid because it means awesome car time with them!

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