When your child becomes a teenager, they’ll probably be itching to get behind the wheel of your car. Of course, the mere thought of their kid in the driver’s seat can send many parents into a panic. However, it’s important that you stay calm when your teen is learning to drive because they need to feel in control of the situation. If you let your sanity slip and begin to micromanage, you’ll likely stress them out, which will make them drive worse and increase your stress levels even more.
Here are a few ways you can avoid that vicious cycle, raise a confident, young driver and keep your cool when you feel like freaking out.
1. Eliminate Distractions
In 2019, 3,142 people died in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. Meanwhile, 70% of teens admit to checking apps while driving. Even more alarming, 80% of them don’t consider app use distracting. That statistic alone is enough to make any parent insane with worry as their phone-loving teen drives off in their car.
Keep your kids safe and stay sane by eliminating distractions in the car. Remind your teen that phones, loud music and even friends can cause them to take their eyes off the road. Therefore, it’s important that they learn to turn off their phone, turn down the radio and maintain focus while they’re in the driver’s seat.
2. Use Student Driver Signs
While your teen is learning to drive, they’ll inevitably cut a few people off and hold up traffic. In these situations, it helps to have a student driver sign on the car. That way, everyone will give you and your driver a little more grace.
Put your mind at ease and help everyone stay calm by making your own sign and putting it in your back window. You can also order a few online or use a government issued “L” sign. If your city requires your teen to use a student driver sign while they learn to drive, you might need a special placard, so do your research before
3. Practice Off the Road
If you want to keep your sanity on the road, get your teen off of it. After all, there’s no reason to drive around in five o’clock traffic when there are probably plenty of parking lots to choose from.
Help your teen build confidence and slowly ease into driving by taking them to an empty parking lot and setting up some cones. Once they get the hang of braking, accelerating and maneuvering the car, they can progress to driving around in a cemetery or small neighborhood. Eventually, both of you will be confident enough to take to the streets and practice with other cars around.
4. Anticipate Their Actions
When your teen is in the driver’s seat, you’ll be grasping around for even a sliver of control. While you can’t brake or accelerate for them, you can try to anticipate their next move. While you’re out driving around, decide well in advance what you want your teen to do and instruct them calmly. Give them enough time to think and respond accordingly so both of you can get from point A to point B safely.
You can also regain some sense of control — and sanity — by warning your child of potential mistakes. Try phrasing your concerns as questions to avoid discouraging them or only pointing out the negatives. For example, you might quiz your teen by asking them when they should switch on their turn signal instead of reminding them last-minute.
5. Point Out the Positives
Even if your teen is hitting curbs and slamming on the brakes at every turn, it’s important to point out the positives. What are they doing right? Odds are you can find at least one thing, even if it’s stopping at red lights.
Staying calm and countering negative feedback with positive reinforcement will encourage your teen to keep trying their best. More importantly, it will give them more confidence so they can become a good defensive driver and put your mind at ease.
6. Write Up a Contract
After your teen earns their driver’s license, they’ll probably want to drive all over town. However, it’s important to establish some clear rules about driving alone. Many driving schools and insurance companies recommend that you have your teen sign a driving contract that outlines good driving skills and safety precautions.
When drafting the contract, consider which cars you’ll allow your teen to drive, how far they’re allowed to go and how late they can be out. Include guidelines regarding oil changes, tire pressure and regular maintenance responsibilities like keeping the car clean. Once your teen signs the contract, they must adhere to it completely or face consequences like revoked driving privileges.
7. Prepare for the Worst
Of course, even the best drivers can get into trouble in heavy traffic and harsh weather. If their car spins out or they get into an accident, it’s important they have an emergency kit on hand. Pack one together and include a mobile phone charger, blanket, flashlight, toolkit, first-aid kit, snacks, water and jumper cables. Teach your teen how to use these items in case of an emergency and advise them to keep the kit in their trunk at all times.
Cover all your bases by getting good insurance, too. This step is crucial for new drivers because there’s no way of predicting other drivers’ behavior and your teen is at an even higher risk because they may fail to notice other cars. Look for new driver discounts and opt for full-coverage for the most peace of mind.
Patience Is Key
Practice makes perfect, which means you’ll probably be on the road with your teen for a while before you’re willing to hand over the keys. In the meantime, try to be patient and try out the tips above to keep your sanity when you feel like pulling your hair out.