For most teens, independence is an important part of growing up and finding their way in the world, and many consider getting a driver’s license to be one of the biggest steps toward their independence. As a parent, however, it might be far more nerve-wracking than exciting when your child is preparing to get behind the wheel.
While your teen may be growing up, they can still use your help and guidance at times. The excitement of learning to drive can sometimes overshadow what a big responsibility driving is, so it’s your job to ground them and keep them focused while not completely ruining their excitement or fun.
Talk with your teen about how to stay safe while driving and do what you can on your end for further security. Driving always has the potential to be dangerous, and sometimes there’s nothing we can do to prevent accidents when caused by others. But that’s why safety should always take priority.
You don’t necessarily need to buy your teen a brand-new car, but you need to ensure that whatever car they drive is in good shape. Whether you buy a used car, give them a family member’s old one, or simply lend them your car to drive occasionally, make sure there are no serious problems with the vehicle. Have a mechanic do a basic check and ensure everything is in working order and as safe as possible. No matter how skilled or experienced a driver is, mechanical failure can create a dangerous situation, so it’s important to eliminate that risk.
Be sure to discuss safe driving practices with your teen and focus heavily on the danger of distracted driving. Despite knowing the dangers, many teens still text and drive, which of course can lead to accidents. Try to get your child to agree to a “no phone” policy when behind the wheel. Many smartphones nowadays have a feature that allows you to set an automatic reply for any text you receive while driving, so speak to your teen about setting something like that up to help them stay focused.
No matter how careful your teen is, accidents sometimes happen. Discuss what to do if they’re ever in a car accident and try running through some emergency scenarios with them. You should prepare yourself for the possibility of your child being in a crash, as well. It may be hard to think about, but if that situation should arise, your teen will need you to be calm and focused so you can help them through. Talk with them about insurance and how to find a good personal injury lawyer if they ever need one.
Rules of the Road
Always make sure your teen knows the laws regarding driving and knows how to follow them. Most driving laws are in place to minimize accidents and keep everyone on the road safe, so ensure your teen takes these laws seriously.
While some parents opt to teach their children to drive entirely on their own, driver’s ed courses can be very beneficial in teaching teens both the fundamentals of driving and also the laws of the road. If you decide to put your teen through driver’s ed, help them through the process. They should do most of the work themselves of course, but helping them study, answering their questions, and explaining anything they don’t quite understand can help them become a safer and more confident driver.
Whether or not your teen takes driver’s ed lessons, you should take them on a few practice drives to help them get a feel for driving. You want them to be as comfortable behind the wheel as possible, and the more familiar they become with the car and the mechanics of driving, the better and more confident they’ll be.
Keeping it Fun
While there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with driving, it’s important to let your teen have fun too. Remember that any recklessness your teen may exhibit is most likely just due to their excitement of driving for the first time. Help them channel that energy more productively and focus on building good skills while still having fun.
If your teen has their own car, play off their excitement by helping them make any customizations they may want like decals, colored tire rims, or interior covers. If it’s their own car, then it’s their own personal space, so encourage them to make it look exactly how they want. Your teen will take pride in having something all to themselves that reflects who they are, and it might even encourage them to be a bit more careful so as not to ruin their aesthetic choices.
It’s easy to worry about your child, but you also need to put some trust in them. Generally, teens want responsibility as that naturally comes with being more independent, so most will try their best to do a good job and stay focused. Just because they’re young doesn’t mean they can’t be skilled or careful. Sometimes teens are far better than other adult drivers on the roads. You should absolutely check in now and then to make sure they’re safe and not having any issues, but it’s okay to loosen the reigns a bit. Let them go out with friends or take over driving for you every once in a while. Establish firm boundaries, but let them have fun and be a kid while they still can.
Many teens see obtaining a driver’s license as a sort of right of passage that signifies their transition into adulthood. While this can be an incredibly exciting time, it’s also important to stay focused and safe, so help keep them on track and give them encouragement and support when they need it.