If you’re a suburban parent, you probably spend a lot of time in the car. While you might not have envisioned quite so much time on the road before your kids came along, the daily commute to and from daycare and school as well as to any activities they participate in can add up quickly.
After a long day, it may be tempting to hand the iPad to your kiddo and tune into your favorite podcast as you head home, but this back-to-school season, consider reclaiming your car time as family time. You might not be able to spread out your favorite board game or chase one another around, but there’s plenty of opportunity for on-the-road bonding if you’re intentional about it. Check out the tips below to transform your commute time into meaningful family time!
Make sure their basic needs are met. There’s nothing less pleasant then a grouchy kid in the car. If you find your kiddo constantly grumpy when you pick her up, consider whether she has what she needs to be able to connect. Often parents are picking their kids up just as little tummies start to growl for supper. Consider keeping a few easy-to-eat, non-supper-ruining snacks and a fresh water bottle in the car to hand over when they hop in.
Don’t we all have days when we need a few extra minutes to transition from work to home or from one activity to the next? If your child is prone to being a bit frazzled by long days, consider welcoming him back into the family routine gently. Let him think quietly for a few minutes, choose his favorite song, or rest his eyes before you start asking about how his day went or sharing plans for the evening.
Most moms and dads love hearing about their kids' days. Kids, however, are often less than excited to share the details of their time away from family. To get better answers, parents should ask better questions. Instead of “What did you do at school today?” consider, “Who did you sit with at lunch?” or “What was one thing that surprised you today?” or any other specific, open-ended question.
Connection is a two-way street. Even though a pre-schooler is certainly going to be less able to show genuine interest in her parents' activities than a high schooler might, chances are you’ve got something to share that will get her listening. Maybe you saw a cool sight, learned something about one of her topics of interest, or decided on a cool family outing. When you’re looking to connect as you drive, don’t be shy about sharing what’s on your mind.
Connecting with your child doesn’t always mean engaging him in deep conversation. Sometimes, it’s as simple as playing a game. Next time you’re in the car with your kid, consider breaking out some road trip classics like the alphabet game, going on a picnic, or I spy.
Some days you and your kiddo might prefer to connect more passively. If you or they aren’t in the mood for conversation or games, consider keeping a favorite movie soundtrack or a book on tape in the car. If your child is older (and you’re comfortable with them hearing some not-so-PG content) consider laughing together to stand-up comedy as you make your way home.