Being a parent is tough, especially when you have to watch your children grow up. Though you may feel a bittersweet swell of pride the first time your son or daughter gets behind the wheel to drive, if you’re like most parents, that proud feeling will be quickly overpowered by mild terror. This person, your child, has never driven before. Danger!
However, according to the Chicago Tribune, letting your child see your panic might be the worst thing you could do. Without your faith in her abilities, how will she ever learn?
Don’t dampen this exciting time for your teen. To be a calm and helpful teacher, be sure you’re armed with both breathing exercises and the knowledge of a seasoned driver. Use the following five tips to be the best parent and driving coach your teen could ask for.
1. Pay Attention to Their Emotions (and Not Your Own!)
Clearly, watching your child learn to drive is a nerve-wracking process. Believe it or not, your child is probably much, much more nervous than you are! Since it’s your teen and not you behind the wheel, do your best to keep her calm and focused. Though you may want to provide a constant flow of feedback and advice, it might be better for you to remain as quiet as possible while your teen drives so that she can focus. Only offer guidance when asked, when the car is stopped, or when absolutely necessary. Plan a well-known and easy route before leaving, too, so you don’t have to give directions during the trip.
2. Start Slow
In both the speed of the car and the pace of your lessons, try to ease your child into the world of driving. Slower is safer — in fact, studies show that only a 0.62 mph decrease in driving speed would reduce road crashes by 2–3%. As such, start your child on roads with low speed limits and little traffic. An empty parking lot might even be a good place for your teen to get familiar with the gas and the breaks. Start with a short lesson or two each week, and gradually work up to longer drives at higher speeds.
3. Let Go of the Small Stuff
Definitely let your young driver know when she’s made a dangerous mistake, such as failing to yield or not checking her mirrors. However, avoid being too harsh in criticisms, especially when the mistakes are minor. Small bumps and scrape are common — after all, 52% of all car damage reported is from scratched or keyed paint. As angry or annoyed as you might be, try to not make the issue worse with your reaction. You both will stay calmer, and your child will be able to fix the issue next time.
4. Educate About Age-Specific Dangers
Teens and young adults are prone to different kinds of road-related dangers than older adults. For example, even though only 10% of licensed drivers are under 21, this group is responsible for 17% of all fatal alcohol-related crashes. This group is also more prone to drowsy driving. Support your teen driver by keeping her informed, and impress upon her the importance of good driving choices that could save her life.
5. Be A Good Role Model
Try as we may, teens don’t always listen to what parents have to say. Though you may not be able to directly teach your child everything you want her to know as a driver, you can show her through your actions. If you don’t want your child to text and drive or speed, don’t do it yourself! Be a good role model. As they say, actions speak louder than words.
The freedom of driving is deeply embedded in American culture. In fact, only 8.7% of U.S. households did not have a vehicle in 2016. Help your young driver enjoy her right of passage by following these five teaching tips. Your teen will have you to thank for a lifetime of safe roadway adventures.