Raising a teen isn’t a “one size fits all” experience. If you’ve met one parent raising one teen, you’ve met… one parent raising one teen. However, there is a universal truth on which most of us can agree: in your car with no distractions, it can be the perfect time and place for conversations with your teen. While recognizing this opportune moment is essential, understanding how to kickstart these conversations is a whole different challenge. February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, and we thought this would be the perfect time to introduce “Car Conversations,” a tool crafted to make discussions about healthy relationships more engaging and comfortable for you and your teen.
What exactly is a car conversation? Car Conversations are bite-sized discussion ideas and questions designed to encourage both parents and teens to reflect on their friendships and relationships. The unique “car” component allows for easygoing, non-invasive conversations, making potentially uncomfortable discussions more approachable. By providing an activity that doesn’t require constant eye contact, we aim to show that these talks don’t have to be awkward or feel like a punishment.
Before diving in, here are a few things to think about:
These conversations are intended for teens and older, sparking discussions between young adults (13+) and you or other supportive adults in their lives.
Make sure to lay the foundation for these conversations: Car conversations are filled with good ideas and questions to help you have the best conversation possible. To make sure your conversations are effective, it is crucial that your teen understands your intentions. Ask yourself these questions before you start using the car conversation tool:
- What do you want them to know about talking to you?
- What are your values around sharing information about sex and safety?
- What are the things you hope they can learn from you?
- What are the things they can always say to you without getting in trouble?
Make sure you are in the right frame of mind before initiating these conversations. It is important that you be genuine, supportive, and non-judgmental in these conversations. During these conversations, emphasize the importance of open communication and assure them that they can ALWAYS come to you with any concerns or questions.
Have some resources available to share, such as hotlines and websites that offer support and information, so they know where to turn if they need help. We’ve included a list of resources at the end of this article—resources not just for your teen but for you or your partner as well.
We’ve divided Car Conversations into three subjects to address key aspects of healthy relationships: communicating boundaries, tech and social media safety, and bystander interventions. Throughout the month, we’ll release these pieces through our social media channels, accompanied by some recommended talking points and follow-up questions. You can choose the topics that you think will resonate with your teen, omit any that don’t, or even add your own personalized touch.
Talking to your teen about sensitive subjects can be difficult and scary. We hope that these conversation starters will help strengthen the bond you have with your teen through meaningful, open dialogue—one Car Conversation at a time.
LoveisRespect.org: Love is respect has a lot of resources and learning materials for young people and adults, as well as live digital chat. Or, 24/7 you can call 1-866-331-9474 or text LOVEIS to 22522! Parents can even call, chat or text themselves to understand what someone may be going through and learn how to help.
ThatsNotCool.com provides resources and interactive tools to help teenagers navigate the digital world in a safe and respectful way.
A Teen’s Guide to Safety Planning: Created by our team, this resource was developed to assist you and your teen develop a safety plan to help them lower the risk of being hurt by an abuser.