As your kids get older, you will one day find yourself having to teach your teenager how to drive. Learning to drive is an exciting rite of passage for a teenager. And why shouldn’t it be? Driving means more freedom. It can mean more opportunities to go out with friends or get an after-school job. Sometimes it means getting their own car. As a parent though, having a teenage driver can bring a mix of emotions.
Surviving Your Teenage Driver
When you finally get into the car with your teenage driver behind the wheel, they have taken a driver education class, spent some time behind the wheel with an instructor, and have their permit, it is safe to say they understand the basics of driving. That does not mean they know everything or do not need you to give them guidance. The guidance part is easy. You have been driving forever. Theoretically speaking, you can easily talk them through any driving situation. The hard part is being able to do it calmly and clearly.
You never know what your teenage driver is going to be like until you get in that passenger’s seat and let them hit the road. While one teenage driver will have a cautious approach to driving, another is going to be terrible at it, and another is going to have a lead foot and seem like they are trying to give you a heart attack. Even if your teenage driver takes to driving quickly, being the supervising driver is one of the most stressful things you do as a parent. Handing the wheel to a teenage driver means you have no control over the situation. That can feel scary.
Even when you want to be super supportive it can be hard not to want to micromanage your teenage driver…or come across as terrified. First, it is important to realize that you are scared and feel like you don’t have any control over the situation so somewhere inside your brain is panicking. Then, realize that gasping constantly, slamming your foot into an imaginary brake on the floor of the passenger side, or gripping the door until your knuckles are white is not helping you or making your teenage driver feel confident.
Read More: TIPS FOR NURTURING A ROAD READY TEENAGER
So now you are probably thinking, well how do I keep from freaking out when I am helplessly sitting in the car with my teenage driver behind the wheel? First, you have to stay calm. That is not always easy. You might have to keep reminding yourself to be calm. It is easy to want to yell “Stop!” or “Slow down!” but yelling just makes everyone tense. If you speak calmly, you will feel calm. So instead of yelling or freaking out, give your teenage driver clear directions in calm, precise language – Watch your speed. Slow down. Look over your shoulder before you change lanes here. You’re drifting over a little. Stay in your lane.
Besides using calm, precise language, it may help if you keep your hands folded in your lap. This can help if you tend to grab onto the door or your seat all the time. It is a small thing, but not gripping onto the car like you are absolutely terrified can help your body feel calmer, which will help your mind feel calmer. That can also help your teenage driver feel calmer and more confident. Think about it. If you were driving and the person in the passenger seat kept grabbing the door or the edges of their seat every time you changed lanes or came to a stop you would not have a great time.
Another thing to keep in mind and to remind yourself is that, as much as it can be hard to do, you have to trust your teenage driver. Start with short, easy drives to ease both of you into this driving thing. If having them drive in the rain or at night makes you nervous, build up to that. As much as they need that experience, you don’t have to start there. Start with things like drives to school or have them drive you to the store.
The more you let your teenage driver actually drive you around, the more you will start to feel relaxed about the situation. The more driving they do, the better they will be at doing it, obviously. There may still be moments that make you nervous but you might be surprised when you realize that you are just as relaxed as if anyone else was driving. Then start enjoying having someone to chauffeur you around!
Your Baby is Growing Up
Yes, it is nerve-wracking to have a teenage driver – no matter how good of a driver they are. Even if you feel completely at ease in the passenger seat while they are driving, you might start thinking about when they can start to drive on their own. Once you finally hand the keys over to your teen and they start heading out on your own, those feelings of fear and nervousness are going to flood right back in. That’s because once again you have no control.
You won’t be in the car to give instructions or warnings. And even though being in the car would not necessarily stop something from happening, you feel like maybe there is a chance that would be the case. Now, they are on their own.
It is hard to think about your little baby child growing up and doing grown things like driving themselves to school or to a job. Driving is one of the first steps to your dependent teenager turning into an independent teenager and then an adult. Soon they will be graduating from high school and maybe going off to college.
The hardest part in all of that is coming to terms with what that means. It means your baby isn’t a baby anymore. While it can feel scary, you have to let go a little. When they become an independent teenage driver and are off cruising on their own, maybe have them check in with a quick call or text when they reach their destination for the first month. Then you can transition that to a text only when they are driving somewhere after dark or if they are driving a longer way than usual.
You have to find a balance between easing your worries and giving them some freedom. That is what parenting is all about after all.
If you are still worried about your teenage driver: Parents can make a big difference in keeping teen drivers safe. Check out the CDC’s How You Can Help Keep Teens Safe on the Road for facts and tips to keep your teenage driver safe on the road.
As a parent, having a teenage driver brings up a whole range of emotions. You are both excited and maybe a little sad to see your child move into the next phase of their life. You are scared and nervous about them driving. You are probably even a little sad thinking about how quickly the next few years are going to go by. While all of your feelings are valid, it is important while you are driving with your teenage driver to stay calm and focused on their becoming comfortable driving. It may be easier said than done but you can do it. Just take a deep breath and hit the road!
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out 6 Things That Will Make Life Easier When Parenting Teens for more advice, tips, and tricks.
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