Parents spend an average of 5.5 hours each week in the car with their children, giving them a great opportunity for ‘drivetime dialogue’ claims new research from Alphabet (GB) Limited, a global provider of Business Mobility. This can include all sorts of issues kids face, from worries about school to friendship concerns. Parents can play a key role as ‘psycarlogists’ helping children find answers to difficult subjects.
Dr Richard Woolfson, child psychologist, comments that, without the usual distractions of home, computers and phones, car trips allow parents to discuss issues with children much more easily than elsewhere. ‘Family life rarely allows time for open and uninterrupted dialogue between parents and children. So time in the car can be a wonderful opportunity to strengthen the communication channels between parent and child, to build trust and strengthen the emotional bond,’ he says.
But children can ask about anything at all, and answering some questions can be challenging when you’re driving. These range from ‘Where do babies come from?’ to ‘Why haven’t I got a tail?’ Some of the more weird and wonderful questions highlighted in the survey include:
- Are trees waterproof?
- What are those two dogs doing in the park?
- Why turn left when the satnav said right?
To encourage and handle conversations with car-born children, Dr Woolfson recommends:
Showing your interest – Get children talking by starting off with everyday topics, such as school, friends, or leisure activities. Open questions such as ‘What made you laugh today?’ encourage conversation.
Reacting to tricky questions – It’s the unexpected questions that can knock you for six. Avoid reacting in a way which might make your child feel embarrassed or silly. Tell your child you’re glad they have asked the question and offer helpful advice if you can.
Providing appropriate answers – If you can, give an immediate answer, pitching your words at the right level for your child’s age and understanding. Resist the temptation to duck the question by telling your child to wait until they are older. Children are very good at knowing when they’re not getting the full picture.
Taking your time – If you need time to gather your thoughts because the topic is highly sensitive, simply tell your child ‘That’s an excellent question. Let’s talk about it later when we have more time and I can give you my full attention.’ Then set a few minutes aside for you and your child to have that private chat together.