Former Extension Educator, Family Life
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Sunday, July 5, 2015
How do you and your family spend time in the car? Does it matter whether you are driving across town or driving somewhere for a vacation or weekend road trip? Should it?
American's spend a lot of time in the car. Looking at national statistics it is a little shocking at first. On average a person spends:
- 15 hours a week driving
- 38 hours a year stuck in traffic – that equals a full work week!
- 3 years and 4 months in a car over their lifetime
This is a lot of time that we are in our cars. Too often everyone checks out and does their own thing in the car. People turn to their electronics to be entertained: phones, iPad, gaming systems, music, DVDs, etc. What happened to the traditional interactive car games that families played while taking trips? Do people even play the license plate game and I spy anymore?
This is valuable captured time that you have with your family that can be beneficial to build bonds, to learn about each other and to just have some plain old fun.
There are a lot of benefits to communicating with your family while in a car. If you are one-on-one with a child or significant other it is a great time for non-confrontational communication because each of you is facing forward. This is often when teens are more likely to open up about difficult topics because you cannot look directly at them because you are driving. This can be difficult for you as the parent driving but it is easier for them. You have to let this opportunity present itself by opening up conversation while in the car and not letting them escape in to their electronics as soon as they jump in the car.
Trying to just get conversations going? There are many books and conversation starters out there that you can buy or look up online. You could even make up your own set of cards if you wanted. Have a family member read a card then have each family member in the car answer the question. Here are some examples:
- What is your favorite meal?
- What is the best birthday gift you ever received and why?
- What's your favorite game to play?
- What's your favorite holiday and why?
- If you could play a professional sport what would it be?
It is amazing what we can learn about each other through random questions that can lead to general conversation as a family.
Just the two of you? If it is just you and your significant other, this may be the only time you both are not trying to get other things accomplished in hurried lives. Use this time to check in with each other. Ask each other questions, get reacquainted, and reinvest in your relationship. There is always something new to learn about each other or make new plans together and have something to look forward to.
Communication is a fundamental part of relationship building and maintaining. Using our time while in cars is a great way to check-in with family members as well as bond. If you are planning a family road trip, plan ahead and look into ways to have some conversation starters to get the conversations going. I can speak from experience that we have enjoyed using them in our family and we have learned new things about each other. It has also been a great way for the kids to kill some time on longer trips as well. They even ask for the questions!
Checking in with our readers....
- What kind of great conversations have you had while driving?
- What kind of interactive driving games do you play as a family?
Let us know!