Watching your teen finally get their driver’s license is a bittersweet moment in every parent’s life. For them, it’s the first taste of freedom, but for us, it’s the start of a whole new phase of worry and fear. Of course, we want to see them grow and make decisions on their own, but we can’t help but think about the dangers that just seem to lurk around every corner. After all, vehicular accidents are the leading cause of death among teenagers in the United States, so our reason for concern is absolutely justified.
It can be easy to feel overwhelmed during this process; it’s a lot to handle! But thankfully, there are ways you can manage your stress. Here are a few helpful tips on how to cope with the big change all while preparing your teen for the road.
Teach Them Car Maintenance
Part of a parent’s worry comes not only from the risk of a car accident but from the possibility of them running into car trouble, especially if they are driving an older model. Give yourself peace of mind by teaching your teen basic car maintenance. Show them how to check the oil and tire pressure, and go over what the lights on the dashboard mean. Let them know that they should always be listening to their car and paying attention to any differences in handling or steering. Teaching your teen to catch problems before they become a hazard is one step to keeping them safe on the road. On top of that, keeping up with routine car maintenance can also help prevent you from having to making costly repairs down the road. It’s a win-win!
Practice Makes Perfect
You’ll feel a lot better about your teen’s skills the more you practice together. Seeing your child handle various situations with ease builds your confidence in their abilities and helps you realize that they’ll be ok on their own. Here are a few tips for practicing:
- Start small. Don’t go straight for the freeway. Start in a parking lot and work your way up to residential streets, then to busier areas of town. Get them comfy with fundamentals before you move on to more complex tasks.
- Choose your time wisely. Starting in 5 o’clock traffic for their first foray into city driving isn’t a great idea. Pick quiet times like Sunday mornings to get their toes wet and build up to busier times.
- Take away the cell phone. Don’t even give them the temptation to look at their phone at stop lights. Nip that habit in the bud!
Be a Good Role Model
Throughout this, remember that your teen is watching what you are doing and will likely mimic your habits, whether you like it or not. If you speed through school zones, you are telling your child that it is okay to speed through school zones. While you shouldn’t be doing anything unsafe or illegal anyways, pay special attention to your own driving when your teen is with you. In one study, more teens reported that their parents drive distracted than their peers. That means that your kids may not be picking up those habits from their friends; they may be picking them up from you.
It can be hard to keep your cool when riding in the car with your teen. It’s only a parent’s natural instinct to yell “SLOW DOWN!” when the speedometer creeps above the speed limit. But screeching at your teen is counter-productive. It stresses them out and will only make them frustrated with you. Stay calm and remain gentle with your criticism.
Help Your Teen Learn from Their Mistakes
Brakes will be slammed at some point, and you’ll likely grip on to the center console for dear life more than once. This is ok. You can’t expect your teen to be an expert driver right out of the gate. Take the time to ask your teen how they can prevent a similar mishap from happening in the future. By making a mistake as a teachable moment, you’ll help them not make it again.
Know That It’s Okay to Let Go
Watching your child get their license is hard because it’s often the first step we take when letting them go. They’re no longer the little toddler whose diaper you changed or that curious seven-year-old who asked way too many questions. They are sixteen and beginning to take on the world by themselves. But letting them have this little bit of freedom is good; they are learning how to be independent, self-sufficient people. Know that you’ve taught them all you can and they can handle whatever may come their way.
About The Author:
Anna Blair is a freelance writer based in Austin, Texas. She loves guacamole, Roman history, and her 2-year old Doberman Pinscher named Catullus.