You knew this day would come, but who knew it’d be so soon!? Wasn’t it yesterday you were putting them in their car seat, pushing them in a stroller, and teaching them to ride a bike? Now they’re ready to drive! When the heck did that happen!?
Let’s be honest…parenting a teenager these days is serious business, (what with the Internet, social media, smart phones, texting, and all that loud music!) and getting them ready for the road can be terrifying. So to help make your teen smarter behind the wheel plus help stop your hand from shaking as you hand over the keys, here are 5 tips for dealing with a new teen driver:
- Demonstrate good driving behavior early – They started copying you when they were babies (remember when they repeated that one word you wish they hadn’t?) so it’s no surprise that kids mimic your behavior behind the wheel, too! If you want your new driver to keep off the phone, stay calm, and focus on the road, remember to do that kind of stuff yourself. Think of yourself as a road role model, and drive that way.
- It’s OK to let a Pro teach them – You’ve been teaching them stuff their whole lives (how to walk, tie their shoes, throw a baseball, talk to girls) so it makes sense that you’d want to teach them to drive too. But the reality is this is a tough time in both your lives. You want them to be the safest drivers on the planet…and they just want to grow up and drive away. That’s why hiring a professional driving instructor or signing them up for Driver’s Ed is a good idea. It may be unnerving, but they’ll get the right info and training. And this way, it won’t affect your relationship, or their maturity. It may even earn them an Auto insurance discount!
- Set realistic boundaries – It may not feel like it sometimes, but kids crave rules and boundaries (even if they break them once in a blue moon). So talk to your kids early on and discuss their boundaries as new drivers. Maybe you don’t want them going more than 20 miles from home, driving with a bunch of friends in the car, or riding around after dark…at least for the first few months. Whatever guidelines you think are best, lay them down well in advance and you’ll avoid those big arguments when your teen starts driving. It may even help to write up a contract with them to sign, or give them rewards or more responsibilities as they gain experience.
- Talk to them about the risks of driving…not just drinking and driving – You’ve probably been talking to your kids about drinking and driving for a while now, because since forever, that’s been parents’ biggest concern. But now we’re in a world of Smartphones, tablets, Smartwatches, satellite radio, and who knows what else technology is on the horizon! That means countless new distractions for drivers, young and old. So spell them out for your teen, and help them understand the dangers of distracted driving just as much as the dangers of drinking and driving.
- Share driving responsibilities – As new drivers, it’s a good idea to give your teen excuses to practice their skills. Send them out to the grocery store, have them pick up their little brother from soccer practice, or ask them to drive Dad to the airport. It may take a little getting used to for you, but sharing the household driving responsibilities takes some of them off your plate. It’ll also expand their skills and get them ready for the boring realities of driving in the real world.