This Post: Teaching Your Teen How to Drive – 8 Tips to Make it Less Stressful
Written by: Contributing writer Ryan Frankel
I think nearly every parent of teens would agree that teaching your teen how to drive is both rewarding and stressful (maybe even slightly terrifying). Not only is the process of teaching them how to drive stressful, but the real stress (and worry) kicks in when they grab the keys to the car and venture out on the road alone.
Sure, it’s helpful having someone else in the house who can run to the store to grab a gallon of milk, but just knowing the statistics of teen driving accidents is enough to keep any parent awake at night. And, considering the sheer number of distractions that tempt teens to take their focus off the road, (cellphones, texting, social media), it’s more important than ever to make sure your teen is well educated and prepared before they take to the road by themselves.
To make teaching your teen how to drive less stressful, far more rewarding and (dare I say) fun, here are a few pointers that can help.
Teaching Your Teen How to Drive: 8 Tips to Make it Less Stressful
1. Let Them Take the First Step
Some teens are ready to jump behind the wheel the minute the law allows it, but others are far more timid to take the plunge. Rather than pushing your teen simply because they’ve reached the legal age to secure their driver’s permit, it’s best to allow them to decide when they’re ready. Whether it’s waiting a couple of extra months before they start driving or letting them learn at a slower pace, giving your teen the chance to overcome their anxieties and build their confidence slowly will make them a safer and calmer driver.
2. Be Careful & Calm as a Teacher
When you’re teaching your teen how to drive, the lines between parent and teacher become blurred. It’s all too easy to get rather emotional or hyped (after all, this is your baby learning to drive), but it’s important to keep your emotions in check, remain calm and offer them careful and succinct directions.
For instance, if you know a tricky left-hand turn is approaching, rather than saying “Slow down! Put on your left turn signal. This is a busy intersection,” stay calm and walk them through the process. Instead, say something like, “You’ll be making a left-hand turn at the next traffic light. Be prepared to put your left-hand signal on and slow down.”
Remember, you’ve been driving for decades and driving comes naturally to you. You can’t “assume” your teen knows what to do or what to expect. You have to calmly guide them through the process every step of the way while also giving them positive reinforcement.
3. Start Them Off Slow
The first couple of times your teen gets behind the wheel can be overwhelming. Although they’ve been a passenger in a car more times than they can count in their life, it’s daunting when they’re the one in control of a multi-ton hunk of metal.
Start out slow and simple at first. Take them to an empty parking lot and let them drive slowly so they can get a feel for the car, the steering and the power of the vehicle by slowly accelerating and coming to a stop. In time, as they gain experience, teach them how to smoothly turn, back up and how to park in a parking spot. When they’re ready, you can “graduate” them to bigger empty parking lots and eventually to low-traveled side roads.
Just remember that everyone learns at their own pace and it’s always better to take it slow rather than rushing through the process. Your child’s safety is at stake!
4. Enroll Them in Driver’s Ed
Every state has its own set of rules as it relates to driver’s education courses. Some states require teens to take driver’s ed before they can take the written and driving exam, while others don’t.
However, even if your state doesn’t require it, it’s always a smart thing to do. Your child can benefit greatly from the training and instruction of a licensed driver’s education instructor whose nerves of steel are equipped to handle the scary part of teaching your teen how to drive, like their first time on the highway.
Plus, no one says you have to do all the teaching yourself. Save your nerves (and your relationship with your teen) and let a professional handle (at least) some of it.
5. Practice Road Awareness with Your Teen
Sure, teaching your teen the basic essentials of driving and the rules of the road are important but there’s more to it than that. Becoming aware of their surroundings – cars racing up behind them, the child playing with a ball on an approaching driveway, paying attention to changing speed limit signs, and even being aware of escape routes should a car swerve into their lane – is a crucial element of driving.
A great way to practice this is by quizzing your teen about the number, color, or types of cars around them. You can do this exercise while they’re in the passenger seat to help them learn to become more aware of their surroundings. It is a fun game that can teach them a life-saving skill.
6. Be a Positive Role Model
This is likely one of the most difficult things to do when you’re teaching your teen how to drive. But make no mistake about it, your teen is watching everything you do. Now that they’re paying attention to your actions on the road, the stakes are much higher.
So, before you speed through that yellow light, roll through that stop sign or check your phone while you’re driving, you might want to think twice. You’re unwittingly giving your teen permission to do the same.
7. Make it an Adventure
At a time in your child’s life when they’re naturally pulling away and gaining more independence, teaching them how to drive offers you a unique chance to spend time with them one-on-one. While state laws will likely only allow your teen to drive within their residing state, use this opportunity to plan a few local adventures to make it fun.
Take a short trip to a local state park, drive to a nearby city, or visit a theme park to give your teen a chance to explore new areas, feel rewarded while they’re learning and practice driving in unfamiliar settings.
#8 Set your Teen Driver on the Right Path
Letting your teen get behind the wheel is a scary endeavor for most parents. That’s why giving them all the resources they need and being an effective driving teacher is so important.
The good news is, there are things you can do as a parent to offer you greater peace of mind, including downloading an app that can keep your child safer on the road. From apps that will offer you insight into your teen’s driving habits and apps that can give you a heads up when your teen reaches their destination safely to apps that reward drivers who abstain from distracted driving, technological advancements are giving parents more comfort and teens more encouragement to stay safe on the road.
While the prospect of teaching your teen to drive can be frightening, it can also be very rewarding and far less stressful if you take it slow, educate your teen thoroughly and take advantage of technology to keep your teen safe on the road.
Ryan Frankel is the Founder of This App Saves Lives (“TASL”), a mobile app-based solution that rewards drivers who abstain from distracted driving. He’s also the former CEO and Co-Founder of VerbalizeIt, a language translation services company featured on Shark Tank and which was acquired in 2016. He’s a Wharton MBA alumnus, an Inc. Magazine Top 35 Under 35 Entrepreneur, an Ironman triathlete, proud father and Golden Retriever lover.
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