Bonding Time in the Car: A Blog for Dads
My fondest childhood memories of my dad always involved a car trip. Sometimes it was a drive around Braamfontein on a Saturday morning, killing time while my mom was on a course in the city. Other times it was an exciting road trip down to the coast. Mostly it was just the daily drive to school; but even this mundane task was an opportunity to spend precious time with my dad.
The adventures of the open road offer great opportunities for fathers to connect with their kids. Every moment in the car is an opportunity for you to build a stronger relationship with your children, have fun, and teach valuable life lessons. South Africa offers a wealth of beautiful scenery and sprawling highways to so many amazing destinations. With the Easter break just around the corner, and our love for local holiday adventures, here are some ways to use a road trip to forge a stronger bond with your children.
As a father, you should know that you are you child’s role model on the road. The habits you display while traveling with kids will most likely be the habits they display later in life. If my dad could hear a rattle anywhere in the car, he’d pull over to investigate and fix it. To this day, I can’t stand to drive with my keys rattling in my car – and I remember my dad every time I adjust something in my cubby hole because it’s moving around and making a noise.
My dad was also very safety conscious – checking his tyres and lights every time he’d get in the car. If you take safety seriously and drive responsibly, you are teaching your kids valuable habits that could be lifesavers when they become young drivers.
Every journey is a chance to learn a new skill and put it to practice. Before you set off, involve your children in planning your journey. My dad taught me how to use a road map, it was a valuable skill for when I began driving by myself; and it’s still useful when my cell phone is flat. Invest in a map book, turn off Waze and let your child navigate, pointing out various geographical features or important buildings that correspond to the map.
A car trip may be one of the best places for a dad to make math fun. If you are travelling 600 kilometres at 120 kilometres per hour, let your kids do the math to tell you how long your trip will take. Remember to include stops along the way for food, bathroom breaks, or sightseeing. I have a nostalgic fondness for Shell Ultra City thanks to my dad.
If you want to use your time to bond, turn off the back seat DVD players and iPad games. Involve your kids in your journey instead. Kids should learn that the highway is a place to be watchful and alert. Even young kids can identify red, yellow, and green lights. They can recognize stop signs and speed limit signs. They can recognize landmarks and they can count specific kinds of cars. They can recognize when other motorists are being reckless. This develops situational awareness and can provide a spark for some interesting conversations.
In a high technology world, critical thinking skills are always in demand. If your kids point out a car that they think is cool, explore the topic.
- How many people fit in the car?
- How many people are in your family?
- Where will the kids ride?
- What kind of mileage will the car get?
- Is it a safe car?
- How much does it cost?
- Is the owner doing a good job driving?
Have your kids explain their automotive choices and preferences. Everything they see along the way is fodder for conversation; and conversations are truly the key to connecting with your kids.
My dad enjoyed a long romance with automobiles and open roads. I owe my love of driving entirely to him. I remember more of the journeys themselves than I do of the destinations. A car trip is an excellent opportunity for you to have a memorable time with your children, teach them skills that they’ll be grateful to have learned from you, and forge lasting bonds that they will treasure long after you have gone.
Brenda Leemans has been counselling families in her private practice since 2010. She has a passion for working with children and helping them develop the emotional skills they need to navigate their lives. She holds an Honours degree in Psychology from UNISA and is registered with the HPCSA