Post by: Paige Whalen, Accreditation Coordinator @ Child Care Resource Center
Since my children were little (they’re now 8 and 13) a drive in the car has been time for conversation. While living in Dallas we had a long commute so my son and I would see and talk about familiar signs, symbols, colors, letters, numbers and places. His favorite place at the time was right by our house, the Fire Station! When he was about 2 years old I remember every time we drove by, coming or going, he would wave and say “Fire Truck!” I would respond and we would begin talking about the truck. As his language increased the conversations grew into “Mom look, the fire truck is leaving” which would start a discussion about where they might be going, had we seen the ambulance going with it, how many firefighters were on the truck, and so on. As you can imagine, when his little sister came along, he was more than happy to share his knowledge of the road, leading to new conversations in the car.
She would ask one or two word questions about places familiar to her. She asked “doughnut?” And I responded, “Yes, that’s where we get doughnuts, or “go to school?” I replied, “Yes, we are on our way to school.” She recognized those daily signs and symbols in our routine, which helped her know where we were headed, all along checking with me for confirmation. Interestingly, my daughter was keenly aware of her surroundings at a young age and even now, she recalls landmarks we haven’t seen in awhile.
These are just a couple of examples of “car conversations.” Collectively they are some of my favorite moments as a parent, as I was able to really understand their thoughts and what was important to them. As they get older I find that the car is still a place we have many of our chats…as for my son, we talk a lot about his sports, how he is doing at school, what’s happening on the bus, and yes even some of those “private” talks. With my daughter it’s more about who did what to whom, what the bus driver said and often a “confession” of some sort, letting me know she made a bad choice and how she will correct it.
Because I’ve been in the child development profession for many years, I know the conversations when they were young meant so much more… first, it was developing a deeper, trusting relationship between my children and me. Next, it was developing their language skills by responding to their coos, giggles and sounds, then expanding on their questions about colors, shapes, numbers, directions, and space and time concepts. It was about using their critical thinking abilities to figure out bigger questions or sometimes using their imagination to come up with a wacky answer.
However, I also know that making a concerted effort to have a conversation with our children today, especially in the car, requires us to turn off technology. For parents it might mean getting off the cell phone or turning off the radio. For children it’s turning off the individual car DVD screens, handheld video games and tablet computers. Technology is definitely an important part of our lives today, but it cannot replace the human connection.