Making the most of time in the car

After coming across a conversation on Facebook by one of my sister bloggers, Christine Wolf, talking about how exhausting all the driving kids around can be, I thought I would write a post with some tips to make the most of the car time. By the other comments on the thread, it was obvious that she was not alone in her sentiments.

So how can you make the most of your time in the car? Check out these 10 tips below:

1. Learn what is going on in the lives of your children and the lives of their peers. If you have several kids in the car, listen to their conversation and learn what is happening every day. Very carefully ask questions and interject relevant comments. Try to ask things that encourage more conversation and opening up rather than nipping the talk in the bud. Unless of course it needs to be nipped!

2. Car time is a great time to connect with your kids. Especially as they approach the teenage years, you want to make sure you have an open line of communication. Use your car time with them to do so. Don’t make it feel like they are being grilled every time they get in the car, but show genuine concern and interest in their lives. Know that there may come a day when they won’t as easily offer up that information. Ask non-judgmental questions and don’t be so quick to jump in with advice or a solution. As they get older they don’t need mom to “fix” everything. Sometimes they just need an ear. Using time in the car, especially when it is dark, may help a teen open up more readily than sitting face-to-face with you.

3. Use the radio and music as a tool to connect with your kids and encourage interaction, rather than just entertainment or a way to avoid conversation (teens can be notorious for this). Sing along with the radio. Ask kids about their favorite artists and songs. Talk about lyrics and music videos and what may be cool about them as well as what may be inappropriate. Listen to a station that is uplifting and safe for kids’ ears. For an example of a dad who has done a great job of this, check out this video of Bohemian Rhapsody. What great memories he is making for his kids…

4. Define your seating arrangement. Be sure to assign seats in the car to avoid fighting. However, once your child(ren) are old enough to sit in the front seat, you want to rotate that front seat on a regular basis (we traded weekly). You want to give each child an opportunity to be in front with mom. Some other privileges of front seat? You may give them control over the radio or they may get to choose which fast food restaurant to grab a snack.

5. Use your waiting time wisely. You may want, and deserve to, just chill. Or maybe you need to catch up with friends and family via social media. Waiting is a great time for Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Waiting time may also be great for making progress on a complicated project that you need to slowly but steadily plod away at. A book can be written in 15 minute increments if necessary. You could also use your waiting time for planning your meals and your grocery list.

6. Keep your car stocked with everyday things you might need for your kids. Things like wipes, changes of clothes, pens, pencils, paper, snacks that will keep in the car, a bag or container for trash, bottles of water, sunscreen. Keeping these items organized instead of rolling around in the floor will make life easier and not more stressful. Keeping appropriate car toys and activities for younger kids is important as well. Use organizers for that distinct purpose to help keep your car clutter-free. (lots of ideas here)
Note: I actually buy cases of water from Aldi for very cheap and keep in back of my car. Works for about 9 months of the year when it is not so hot!

7. Download audio books to listen to. These can be for yourself while driving alone or waiting, or for listening to with the kids. Listening to something that interests and involves the kids is a great way to connect and build some camaraderie around the story line and characters.  One of my family’s absolute favorites was The Chronicles of Narnia. This link takes you to an amazing version that is great for kids of all ages from Focus on the Family Radio Theater.

8. Limit your phone time when the kids are in the car. Keep conversations short and to the point. When the kids are NOT in the car, this is a great time for catching up with friends, family, or spouse, as well as taking care of some business. Be sure to use a bluetooth or hands-free headset for talking on the phone in the car (depending on what the law is in your state).

9. Limit your kids’ electronics in the car. By limiting your phone time in the car, you can reinforce that rule with your kids. When you have kids who have smart phones or mp3 players, try having a rule that they must keep one ear unplugged at all times. That way they are not disconnecting themselves and difficult to engage in conversation. They also do not need to have lengthy phone conversations, although most kids today text rather than talk.

10. Use those 5 minutes alone here and there to refresh and recharge. For you that might mean turning off all music and electronics and basking in the silence. Or maybe play some worship music for meditation and prayer. Or maybe you want to turn up some Journey or Aerosmith and sing to the top of your lungs. My favorite is Phil Collins In the Air Tonight. I love to watch people watch me play the air drums, lol. (Am I showing my age, lol?)

Though my own days of being a mom chauffeur are over, I do remember that time so well. My email address at that time was I lived on the road! Enjoy the time while they are there with you, it will pass all too fast…

Christine, being the funny writer that she is, wrote her own post in response to the this issue that plagues most moms today. You can read it here: My love/hate relationship with driving my kids