Nothing strikes fear into the hearts of parents like the combination of their kid and a car. Whether it be toddlers making a mess or teenagers behind the wheel, adding a child to a giant, expensive and potentially deadly machine gives parents the heebie-jeebies.
And can you blame them? Cars are expensive, utterly necessary and often a point of pride. Kids are the embodiment of the unexpected.
For the savvy parent, cars can be something else: an opportunity. Automotive maintenance, no matter how mundane and routine can be a chance to hang out, teach teens a valuable life skill and bond.
If you’ve never tackled car maintenance as a parent/child team, you probably won’t want to start by changing a serpentine belt or alternator, but they can help all the same. Start with the small stuff — clean out the car or giving it a good wash. If your car needs more technical maintenance, take that time to introduce them to the basics, like applicable tools or major components and what they do. Start the foundation of knowledge.
COVER THE BASICS
One of these days, you’ll send your kid off on their own in a car. When the time comes, they’ll need to know how to change a tire, replace windshield wipers, top off fluids — and when to turn the car over to a professional. This is your time to teach your child how to be an independent adult in the world, and it’s never too soon to start.
MAKE IT A GAME
From hide and go seek to Monopoly, everyone loves to play a game. Interest teens in completing car maintenance by making it into a game. Give them rewards when they complete a task or learn something new!
Teaching them how to drive? Accompany them on a spin after the car is maintained. Pretend you’re a space captain trying to repair the hyperdrive so you can escape a monster-infested asteroid belt. Games keep people engaged, entertained, and learning — and that fun will carry into your bonding experience.
Are cars your thing? Is bleeding brakes your idea of a good time? Show your teens why, and show them with your enthusiasm on display. Let them know why it’s neat and why you’re interested. Nothing is as infectious as enthusiasm — not even chicken pox. If cars aren’t your thing, that’s okay too; show your kid you’re excited to spend time with them.
BRING IT TO THEIR WORLD
So you asked your kid to help you tinker under the hood and he turned up the volume on the TV or kept clicking away at his video game controller? That’s OK, it happens. Try to marry their interest with yours. For video game fans, car repair simulators can be educational or just silly fun. Fan of major car movies? Show your kids where the movies got it right and where they got it wrong. Bring it to their interests, and you will have plenty to talk about.
Just talk. Make it natural. Don’t turn the conversation into an afterschool special unless your child takes it there. The conversation doesn’t need to be deep or meaningful, but it does need to be genuine. Listen, engage, and show empathy. Ask questions and encourage your child to express their feelings. Be interested.
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