It can be a scary, nerve wracking time when a teen begins to drive. While tension is often high during the teaching phases, I think worry increases once they are past that and driving on their own.
Having gone through this a few times, I’d like to share some of the things I have learned:
1. Be a good example. Drive safely and follow the laws before they start driving all the way through the time they are on their own. They follow our examples, and learn what they see.
2. Start teaching them the basic rules of the road before they even have their permit. Not only will this help them learn and pass their tests, it will help the information become second nature, not something just learned and forgotten. It will also potentially lead to conversations where more information can be given.
3. Have them take a classroom driver’s education course. If it is possible and affordable, have them take a formal behind the wheel class, as well.
4. Talk to them about what they see and experience, and about what makes them feel unsafe or uncomfortable when riding with others, and/or when driving. Help them overcome fears and anxiety they have, and use their concerns as teaching topics.
5. Drive with them often, and definitely before they get their license. If someone else is teaching them, make sure you still “sign off” on the process and the decision to finally go take the driving test.
6. Explain that we all should drive extra safely, to make up for those that aren’t. It is important that they are aware, because someone else might not be.
7. Put limits on their driving, even after they get their license. Explain this to them before they even get their permit, and remind them along the way. The day they get their driver’s license may not be the day they get to drive to the mountains or into the city to hang out with their friends. They need to know and understand this before the moment in question, so they are not surprised or angry! It is also okay the give them rules and limits related to grades, responsibility, etc. Include whatever limitations you think make sense (within reason) before they get behind the wheel.
8. Let them know that it’s okay to put limits on their own driving, and on their friends’ behaviors. As the driver, they have the authority to require passengers to wear safety belts, to keep the music at an appropriate volume, and whatever else makes them feel safe and confident.
9. Once they start driving on their own, have them check in upon arrival to and departure from their destinations. You can let this one go when you feel comfortable, but cell phones make this extremely easy, and greatly increase our peace of mind as moms!
10. Reinforce the important messages, and again, be a good example. No texting and driving…ever. No drinking and driving…ever.
11. Talk to them about safety, and be honest. Tell them if you occasionally do things that are not the best examples of driving (if applicable). Explain to them that they are the most important thing, and that you try to drive in a way to protect them, and you ask them to do the same. Have them think about the 3 most important people in their lives (family, boyfriend/girlfriend, best friend), and how they should drive when they are in the car. Tell them that it is easy to get distracted when others are in the car, but that they must always remember that they are responsible for those people’s lives whenever they are in their vehicle, and they must always drive accordingly. Ask them how they would feel if something happened while they were driving that could have been prevented. This is probably the one thing that made the biggest impact on my son’s driving.
12. Finally, trust that you have done a good job teaching them, and be confident when you feel they are ready to venture out on their own. Don’t worry…you’ll get through this, too!