(The following article is contributed by Kristie Lipper. Kristie is a mother to two teenagers and “Driver’s Ed” instructor to her oldest. She is “in the trenches” and has some great tips for one of the most harrowing and stressful of parenting tasks for those with teens)
“Mom! When you grab the “I’m Gonna Die!” handle, it makes me nervous!”
“Well, stay away from the curb then!”
Teaching a teen to drive probably keeps blood pressure medicine companies in business. I feel for the first child in a family because he/she has to be the lab rat for parents. We have told our first born numerous times that this is our first time to parent just like it is his first time to do something and we are trying our best! Thankfully, we have a (mostly) forgiving son. Educating a teen to drive is a interesting experience.
My husband and I have learned a few things:
- Give yourself a little grace. No one teaches parents how to teach your kids to drive.
- Second nature to us is NOT second nature to them. Have you ever tried to play a video game with your child? They use that controller like it is an extension of their body. I fumble around, pushing the wrong buttons, and the game is over before I’ve started. Your child can’t figure out why you don’t get the game, and you are frustrated at your cluelessness. Whether learning to drive a car or a video game, neither situation is fun for the seasoned veteran or the rookie.
- Take it slowly. You don’t take them out on the Indy track (Dallas North Tollway) until they build a little confidence. Start off by taking them to the high school parking lot on the weekend. After some hand-holding instruction on braking, accelerating, and turning, get out of the car. Sit in a lawn chair and let your teen drive around the parking lot on his own. Two things are accomplished: (1) The new driver will be less anxious when you aren’t nervously reacting to his every decision, and (2) you avoid nausea from the abrupt stopping and starting.
- Practice. Practice. Practice. Look for opportunity everyday for your teen to be behind the wheel. This will require some planning and buffer in your schedule. The tendency is when you are running late, you will want to take over and drive.
- Push them (and yourself). New drivers will soon get comfortable driving to basketball practice, the store, or church. Make them drive when it’s raining, during rush hour, on the highway, and at dusk/night.
- Talk with them about driving when you are driving, not just when they are behind the wheel. Have them watch traffic for defensive-driving situations. Teach them to observe where you are going, the layout of your town, reading street signs, etc.
- Be a good example. Your driving should be a model for how your child should drive. Obey all traffic laws, control your road rage, and absolutely do not text or look at your phone. Your teen already wants to look at his phone 24/7. The car is never the place to do it. Studies have shown that phone distraction is more dangerous than drinking and driving.
- Remember, you once had to learn as well. You survived! So will your teen.
- Help them gain confidence and that will give you confidence. Stop grabbing the “I’m Gonna Die!” handle. (It won’t keep them from riding the curb anyway and it makes them more nervous.)
- Be thankful that the Lord has given you a child that is growing and maturing enough to be able to handle driving a car. This is just the another way to keep you on your knees praying for your child. A new found sense of freedom is looming around the corner when they can drive off without you. Enjoy this time that you get to be with them in the car.
- Be positive with them and encourage them. Even when you are nervous about them turning onto a busy road, don’t let it show.
- Have fun!
Bringing a newborn home from the hospital, first time leaving your baby in a nursery, first day of preschool, first day of kindergarten, first time walking to a friend’s house alone, first time to go to camp, first time to try out for something, first school dance, first time to drive, first time to drive alone, first time to leave for college, first job…the list of “firsts” can go on. When it comes to praying for our child, we will always have a “first” to pray for or something that makes us nervous. Resting in knowing our Heavenly Father loves them even more than we do can give us a peace that truly passes understanding. If you have a teen about to drive or learning, be thankful you have been given the chance to spend this time with your him/her.
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