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Need to talk to your teenager? Take a drive.

Even though teens can do most things for themselves, and even though they may not admit it, they still need their parents. 

But we parents need our teenagers, too. The end of their childhood is coming and we know it. It’s a time of wanting to make sure we’ve taught them everything they need to know before turning them loose into the world. It’s also a time of longing for connection with them and wanting to be part of their world.

The fact that time is fleeting means we need to take advantage of every opportunity for quality time together. One of the best and easiest places for that is in the car.

Riding together provides the perfect chance to talk, especially if something heavy is on one of your minds. Being seated side by side instead of face to face makes it easier to say things that are hard to say. Nobody else is going to walk into the room. Nobody is going to storm out of the room. 

If you’re running to town, take your teenager with you, even if it’s just a quick trip. Talk to them about their day, their friends, school, or just ask them to play you a few of their favorite songs. Starting out simple can lead to deeper conversations. What do they want to do after high school? How’s their mental health? Can you help?

Making car chats a regular part of your lives provides a nonthreatening way for you and your teenagers to carve out time to talk. If something is concerning you, take them out for ice cream and talk about it on the way.

They’ll learn this trick, too. If your kid asks you to ride along or take a drive, even if they are acting like it’s no big deal, drop whatever you are doing and get in the car. This could be code for, “I need to talk to you but I don’t want to do it here or I don’t want everyone else in the house to know.”

I took the photo at the top of the page of my youngest, Will, on a drive last summer. Some of the most perfect moments in my “mom memory bank” are riding through the country with my boys, listening to their music with the windows down. Sometimes we talked about little things. Sometimes we talked about big things. Sometimes we didn’t talk at all because just having a few minutes together was exactly what we needed.  

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