A Parental Tip for Adolescents

When I was a teenager, my father and I had a code word to indicate my need for a private talk. When the cue was given, Dad abruptly stopped his work and we popped in the car for a drive. With eyes facing forward, words seemed to flow easier. At first I unloaded my heartache or injustice—often through a flood of unreasonable tears. Dad listened…and listened…sometimes interjecting a question. He deserved a purple heart for his excruciating endurance to receive my avalanche of words while restraining even a single word of lecture. As I captured feelings into words, I began to understand myself better. My inner storm gradually subsided. Before our “discussion” was over, Dad always offered a suggestion of something to try, a possible action. It wasn’t pitched as, “This is what you should do”—but rather, “Here’s something you might try.” He affirmed his love for me and described some aspect of my worth that I couldn’t see. Climbing out of the car, I felt emptied and filled at the same time—while clutching something concrete to try. And if that plan didn’t work, there were other plans queued up. My father didn’t have training in psychological counseling. But his formula helped me through the rocky terrain of adolescence, and became my desired model for parenting much later. What do you see as the benefits of talking to your teen in the car?

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