If you have a teenager at home who is about to get their driver’s license, you’ve probably heard the shouts of excitement for months now at the prospect of them becoming a teenage driver. But, as a parent, you might not be as excited. Even if your teen is responsible and you trust them on the road, it can still be a nerve-wracking experience for parents to think about their child behind the wheel for the first time.
You already know that the teen years can come with their own set of challenges. But, getting a driver’s licenses is a right of passage for teenagers, and something nearly everyone accomplishes. In the UK, the legal driving age is 17, and in the United States, teens can start taking driver’s training as early as 15.
So, what can you do as a parent to make sure that you’re ready to watch your “baby” drive around? Most of the time, the focus on how to be prepared is on the teen – and it should be! But, being prepared as a parent is also important, and it can help to alleviate some of your stress and worry.
So, let’s go through a few tips you can use to prepare yourself when you have a teen driver about to hit the road.
Create a driving contract
Before your teen officially gets their license, they’ll have to take some kind of test, so you can have some reassurance that they know the rules of the road and how to be safe. But remember, they’re still living under your roof and it’s okay for you to put additional rules in place, too.
One thing you can do to keep yourself at ease and remind your teenager of this great responsibility is to create a contract that they must sign before they start driving. The contract should consist of rules you both agree on. It can include things like:
- Whether or not they can have other kids in the car
- Their curfew on weekdays/weekends
- Places they can/can’t go
Depending on where you live, there may already be specific driving laws in place for teens of different ages. So, make sure your contract follows those existing laws and that your teenager knows how important it is not to break them, or their future as a licensed teenage driver could be in jeopardy.
Practice, practice, practice
You can learn a lot about the basic rules of the road from books and pamphlets, but nothing compares to actually experiencing things while driving. That’s why it’s so important for your teen to clock as many hours as possible on the road before they get their license.
Their driving school might have a specific requirement for how many hours your teen should drive with an adult. But, it’s important that you reinforce what they’ve learned as much as possible. Go well beyond those required hours to make sure they’re as prepared as possible. Chances are, your teen won’t complain about getting in extra time behind the wheel, and you can make sure as you’re sitting there with them that they’re following the rules, playing it safe, and that there are no big red flags you should be nervous about.
Choose the right vehicle
You and your teen might have different ideas in mind when it comes to their first vehicle. They might be interested in something that looks cool, but it’s not likely they’re overly-concerned with safety features.
As a parent, safety is probably your biggest concern! You’ll want a car that’s reliable for your teenage driver. While that doesn’t mean they need a luxury vehicle, they should have something that won’t break down frequently or require a lot of maintenance. Newer cars do tend to have more safety features, so it’s an investment that’s worth looking into.
With about 41% of parents buying their child’s first car, it’s up to you to “take the wheel” (pun totally intended!) and decide which features are important. While your teen might want the vehicle with the sweet sound system, you might favor one with all-wheel drive or side airbags.
Once you do decide on a vehicle, teach your teen about how to take care of it and all of the responsibilities that come with it. They should have a basic idea of gas prices and insurance costs, as well as some maintenance tips. It can be helpful to teach your teen how to change a tire, but it’s also important to teach them to pay attention to the general maintenance needs of the car, including oil changes and tire rotations.
Set rules for electronic devices
There’s plenty of debate over whether teenage drivers should have cell phones or not. The reality is that having some way to contact your teenager (and vice versa) can be incredibly important when they’re out on their own.
If they get lost, if they need to talk to you about curfew, if they have a question, or even if something happens with their car, your teenager needs a way to contact you immediately. Not only will it give them peace of mind knowing you’re just a phone call away, but it can give you that same comfort knowing they’re not totally alone when they’re out driving by themselves.
With that being said, the debate comes over the fact that teens (and everyone, really) need to focus when they’re on the road. Mobile phone use while driving is responsible for many road accidents and car write-offs. So, it’s no wonder some parents don’t want their kids to have phones while driving.
But, that’s where the key phrase comes in; “while driving.”
As a part of your contract with your teenager, you should have a rule about electronic devices in the car. They should never be used while your teen is driving, whether it’s to send a quick text message or answer a phone call. Any form of communication can wait until they’re safely parked somewhere. Make sure your teenage driver knows about some of the scary statistics related to phone use while on the road, and how it only takes a second of distraction for an accident to happen.
As a parent, you’ll also want to choose the right cell phone provider for them. Companies like Half Cooked can help you to determine the best mobile network that fits the needs of both your teenager and yourself.
Make sure they’re ready
Most teens who are excited to drive can’t wait until they turn the appropriate age so they can get their license right away. But, you’re still their parent and you still know what’s best.
With that in mind, you also know the maturity level of your teenager, and whether they would truly be responsible on the road. If you’ve been practicing with them and you have concerns, it’s okay to hold them back on getting their license for a while.
Will your teen be upset with you? Maybe. But, their frustration and impatience will go away with time. The most important thing is making sure they’re safe. Even waiting an additional six months before letting them get their license can make a difference in their maturity level and preparedness.
Make sure you’re ready
So, you’ve spent a lot of time preparing yourself and your teen to hit the road. You’ve done everything you can to reassure yourself that they’ll be okay. When that day finally comes, though, it’s also important to make sure you’re ready.
Don’t let yourself get overly-stressed at the idea of your teenager driving for the first time. Of course, that’s easier said than done. Some nerves and anxiety are normal. But, when the stress causes you to lose sleep or makes you feel sick to your stomach, it could lead to other issues like anxiety or even depression.
Practice self-care as much as possible during this important and exciting phase of your teenager’s life. They’re getting older and learning how to be more independent. While that can be hard for a parent, it’s also your ultimate goal as a parent! So, once you’re sure you’ve done all you can to keep your teen safe on the road, start to put the focus back on you.
Do things you enjoy or the activities you find relaxing. Spend time with friends, family, and your spouse. Your teenager will always need you, but it’s okay to use this time to give them the independence they crave and loosen the reins a bit.
Again, being able to drive is an exciting time and a fun experience in any teenager’s life. While you might see it a bit differently as a parent, it’s okay to let it be an exciting time for you, too. You know your child better than anyone. So, trust them to do the right things while they’re driving. When you show them that you do trust them with that level of responsibility and that you truly believe in them, it will be a more positive experience for both of you.
Have you got a teenage driver in your midst? What are you doing to prepare for this parenting milestone? Do share in a comment below.