When toddlers turn into teenagers, the “small stuff” we’re not supposed to be sweating turns into bigger stuff.
We could say hormones are to blame, which they are to a point, but let’s face it: being a teenager is hard, and there are a lot of grownup responsibilities that go with reaching adulthood.
Learning to drive is one of those. Luckily, there are lots of things we, as parents, can do to cultivate the confidence and responsibility they need to get them on the road safely.
1. Work at their pace
If after once or twice on the road, your teenager demonstrates he or she is knowledgeable enough to take a thorough practice test online about the basics, have at it.
Likewise, if he or she takes a week just to get comfortable adjusting mirrors, be patient with them, that’s OK too. Be sure to encourage them, no matter what stage they’re in.
2. Practice what you preach
If you want your teen driver to avoid distracted driving or drinking and driving, you have to show them what that looks like.
They should see us put our phones away when we get into the car and say thanks, but no thanks when it comes to drinking if you’re the designated driver for the evening.
3. Begin with the basics
Make sure to run through a checklist of things they need to do before they even start the car. Seatbelt? Check. Mirrors adjusted? Check. Are you scanning your surroundings? Check.
Start out driving in clear, dry conditions in an empty parking lot, or a less-traveled residential neighborhood. Once they can confidently navigate these settings, move on to variables like driving in a more congested area, or driving in wet or icy weather.
4. Practical knowledge
Along with teaching the basics, teaching your teen about how to maintain and care for the car is essential. Make sure they know how to fuel up, check the oil, change a tyre, and read any dashboard warning lights, just to name a few.
Showing them how to safely pull off the road for an emergency is a good idea as well, and make sure they know where to keep license and registration at all times. In the event that they get pulled over, teach them how to engage a police officer politely and what they should expect.
5. Make defensive driving the bedrock of good driving.
Teaching your teenager how to be a defensive driver is essential for confident driving. They’ll need to develop the habits of 360-degree awareness and anticipate the movement of others on the road, as well as intuitively scanning for road hazards.
to be a defensive driver is essential for confident driving. They’ll need to develop the habits of 360-degree awareness and anticipate the movement of others on the road, as well as intuitively scanning for road hazards.
We can cultivate this habit while teaching by giving a heads up well in advance for action they’ll need to take- if they’ll need to accelerate to match the flow of traffic, or if they’ll need to anticipate breaking for the yellow light ahead for instance.
6. Guide as you go
Reminding your pupil of what to look for while driving is a good way to quiz while learning. If they start to speed up unnecessarily, ask them to note the speed limit and report back.
If there are street signs they’ll need to know for the permit exam, ask if they recognize them and what they mean. Scenarios of yielding to the right-of-way and passing safely will present themselves, ask your teen driver if they know what to do in those situations and teach as you go.
7. Keep calm (and try not to yell)
Aaah, the anxiety. Teaching a teenager to drive can be a harrowing experience, to say the least. Anyone who’s had to do it can testify to that- but try not to lose it. (“DO YOU WANT TO GET US ALL KILLED?!?)
If we don’t display our confidence in their abilities, they won’t be confident drivers. Let them see that mistakes are usual, and reassure them that you know they’ll eventually be excellent drivers.
Even after they’ve successfully passed a learner’s test and have gone on to get their full-fledged license, it’s important to keep tabs.
A teen driver is more likely to exhibit risky behavior behind the wheel when you’re not around, and who they are driving with can exacerbate bad habits.
At the end of the day, the sense of pride you’ll have when your teenager takes to the road responsibly and skillfully will make all the stress worth it.
Good luck, and enjoy the benefits of sending someone else to the store for a change!
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*This is a collaborative post