It’s that moment that every father both anticipates and dreads in equal measure. Your little boy or little girl isn’t so little anymore, and suddenly, it is time to teach them how to drive. While it’s great that your teenager can gain a little bit of independence by having that driver’s permit or driver’s license, getting their driving skills up to snuff can be a little nerve-wracking. Here are a few tips and tricks to help you teach your teen to drive without freaking out yourself.
Keep Your Mind on the Road
The rule is usually to keep your eyes on the road if you’re behind the wheel, but if you’re in the passenger seat while your teen drives, it’s important to keep your mind on the road as well. Having your teen alone in the car can seem like a great time to have-a-heart to heart about things like grades, girls, or other problems that they might be experiencing.
Don’t add additional stress to the situation, especially with a new driver. Don’t bring up a bad test grade or an awkward phone call while they’re trying to learn how to navigate traffic without killing you both. Your teen needs to stay focused on the road, and you need to stay focused on teaching them how to drive safely. Leave everything else for when you’re home, and the car is parked.
Don’t Assume They Already Know
Just because they had to memorize all the traffic signs for their driver’s permit test doesn’t mean that they remember them once they’re behind the wheel. Modern schooling tends to teach rote memorization for testing, and once the test is over, the information just vanishes from their brains.
Quiz them on the signs you see as you’re traveling, even if they’re not behind the wheel. You can even turn it into a history lesson if it will help the information stick. Did you know that humans have been using traffic signs as far back as Ancient Rome?
Keep Challenging Them
Driving on empty roads and abandoned parking lots can be great the first time your teen gets behind the wheel. It allows them to get a feel for how the car handles, and how much pressure they need to put on the brake pedal and accelerator — but it isn’t going to make them better drivers. To do that, you need to keep challenging them.
Teach them to drive on the roads that they’re going to use regularly. Start with late night or early morning driving, when there isn’t a ton of traffic, and then move on to progressively more difficult scenarios — rush hour, poor weather, holiday traffic, etc. If you live in an area that’s prone to snow, make sure they practice driving in snow. The same goes for thunderstorms, fog or any other weather that might make the roads more dangerous.
The more scenarios you expose them to when they’re learning, the fewer unexpected things they will encounter on the road. Plus, if they do come across something they haven’t practiced — like a moose in the road — they’ll be able to assess the situation with a level head and without panicking.
Expect Success but Plan for Failure
Even the best teen drivers are prone to making mistakes. Whether those mistakes result in a dinged bumper or a totaled car aren’t always up to you. That is why it is so important to plan for failure even if you expect success. Don’t freak out, even if you do end up in an accident. Use it as a teaching moment. Walk them through calling the police, calling your insurance, collecting contact info and insurance from the other driver, and even filing the claim if necessary.
The whole process of teaching your teens to drive is almost guaranteed to give you a few extra gray hairs, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Don’t panic, keep your mind on the road and enjoy the fact that in a few short months, you won’t have to drive your teen everywhere anymore. A driver’s license isn’t just independence for a teen. It’s freedom for you, too.
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