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Deep Conversations made Easy

December 15, 2011

The conversation pit rides again.

I had a nice night on Tuesday.  I left work an hour early and drove down 2.5 hours  to Champaign, IL to pick up my freshman daughter Sarina from the University of Illinois.  We ate a slice  of pizza at a local place, ran a couple of errands and then headed home.  Despite rain and foggy conditions, the ride home was quite enjoyable.  Sarina and I engaged in conversations that included the following:  what was surprising about college, her desire to become more of a leader, dating/sex, my own spiritual journey, alcohol, the Religious Right, my coaching career, her potential careers and music.

Wow, you say, it must have been a pretty intense car ride.  Not really.  Our conversation was open and breezy.  We would dive into a topic for a few minutes, take a break or listen to music and then talk about something else.  Now some of this has to do with the fact that Sarina and I have a pretty good relationship, but not all of it.

I am more and more convinced that the car is the perfect place to talk to our kids.  The car is that just right combination of a captive audience, coupled with the slight distraction of the road.  Kids do not want to be interrogated.  The idea of sitting across the kitchen table from your child and having an intense conversation is quite distasteful to most kids.  Kids actually do want to talk, but they just need the intensity to be slightly muted.

So, as we approach the holiday season, you will probably be running around shopping, going to events and doing errands.  Take one of your kids with you and ask one open ended question to get the conversation started.  The questions do not have to be about them directly.  You can ask, “Is there a lot of peer pressure to do stuff at your school?”  or “What’s been your favorite part of sixth grade so far?” or “If you could change one thing about your life, what would it be?”

I think you will be surprised how much a well placed question in the car will lead to deeper conversation and a better relationship.  Take a drive on the wild (conversation) side, your kids will thank you for it!!!

Patrick Donohue is a Life Coach in Oak Park, IL.  Contact him at

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