I learned early on as a parent that when they’re not picking on one another or wondering how soon we’ll get where we’re going, children are a captive audience while riding in the car.
As early as age 3, Big J–our now 7-year-old–was asking very challenging questions as we drove…
“What do aardvarks eat?”
“What does that thing hanging in the back of my mouth do?”
“What does (insert any inappropriate words on a sign) mean?”
I have always loved the curiosity of our children, but while driving I have nothing to reference for answering their questions and feel a little like I’m drowning in a sea of unanswerable questions! And let’s face it, when it comes to animals, they know way more than I do anyway.
Some of the best conversations the kids and I have had in the car have to do with faith. Along with their big questions about all the other things in the world, they have never been afraid to ask big questions about God, Jesus, heaven, and other faith-related topics (especially after we’ve been reading books together like the wonderful new book, My Friend Jesus: The Gospel for Kids).
Sometimes I don’t know the answer to their questions, but when I do, I’ve found a few things that make our carpool conversations memorable and meaningful:
1. Listen. Really listen.
Even while driving, it can be easy to space off when our kids are asking question after question. But often the most important question in a conversation with my kids will come after they’ve already asked a few. If I tune out after the first question, I might miss a conversation that will bring them closer to Jesus!
2. Be honest.
I don’t know what heaven looks like. There are things about God that I will never be able to fully comprehend. And when my kids ask about things I don’t know, I tell them I just don’t know but we’ll look it up in the Bible together when we get home. Don’t try to make something up if you’re not sure just to look smart – you will lose their trust when they find out the truth! And if the subject they ask about is just too mature for them to understand, tell them that as well.
3. Share your stories.
Just before leaving home one night, one of our boys lied to us. He was caught in the lie just minutes before we left, so the car was where our discussion about his choice needed to happen. I was pretty upset, but I couldn’t fly off the handle while driving – a good thing for all of us – and God used that time to bring to mind my own struggle with lying growing up. As we drove, I talked to him about my lying as a child and how hard it was to stop once I started. He really listened and we ended up having a great talk that got to the heart of the matter. I was so thankful for that time to share my story so he would know he’s not alone and that he can make a change! Share your stories with your kids whenever possible – it brings amazing connection!
4. Ask them questions.
When my kids are curious about God or Jesus or faith, I like to ask a lot of questions of them as well. As I mentioned before, it can be easy to zone out in the car, so keep your conversation interactive by asking them what they think, if they understand what you are saying, if they remember any stories or experiences that could relate to the topic, etc.
If you want to have more faith-related conversation in the car but your kids aren’t big question-askers like mine, think about having a stack of conversation starters in the glove box that you could take a look at before you start driving and YOU ask the questions! All those minutes spent chauffeuring everyone to and from school and soccer and piano lessons don’t have to be wasted – use them to focus all of your hearts on Jesus!
Have you had any great faith conversations in the car with your kids?