When you are daydreaming about parenthood, you think about all the amazing discussions you will have with your child, how you will discuss the important aspects of life, how you will advise and encourage, how you will educate and inspire... Then you actually become a parent and realize that those "talks" happen at the most unexpected times when you are least prepared to tackle "the tough stuff."
Typically these talks will occur when you are behind the wheel and your teen or tween is in the back seat. You are rushing somewhere (as you always seem to be doing when you are transporting kids to activities and appointments) and your patience is shot after a long day at work. It is then when your adolescent will ask you about his/her birth parents or want to know if you ever smoked Marijuana. Suddenly you are at a loss for words -- but you have been preparing for these talks and expecting them, right? Well, in your daydreams they were never when you were behind the wheel in rush hour traffic on the highway...
Don't be surprised if this happens. Teens/Tweens do their best "talking" when they are not looking you squarely in the eye. They want information but they are embarrassed to ask, so what better time to bring up these topics when Dad or Mom cannot turn around and give you his/her undivided attention?
Some positive parenting points to consider:
1. Your child is asking YOU questions about important things that he/she is thinking about now.
2. You have an opportunity to talk without your child exiting before you finish saying what you want him/her to hear. Your audience is captive!
3. Your child can think before speaking; there is just enough distraction in the car to allow him/her to take a pause and contemplate what is being said and how he/she wants to respond.
Don't ask too many questions, because if you do, that is the best way to put an end to a teen-directed discussion! Be honest and open. If you did something in your past that made your life difficult or brought you shame, it may be a good learning experience that you can share with your child so he/she will think twice before doing the same thing. The more your child sees you as a human being (and not just as Mom or Dad), you will be able to influence him/her in a way that is powerful and meaningful.
So get in the car and take a drive with your teen/tween! You never know what questions are going to be coming at you from the back seat!
Amy Shore is a Licensed Professional Counselor who works with adults, teens, and tweens on a variety of mental health issues. You can contact Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out her FaceBook page: @houston.teen.therapist (Houston-area Teen Therapist).