We moms love to celebrate our kids’ milestones. Whether it’s your child’s first time rolling over, crawling, or walking, these “firsts” are usually an indication that your baby is growing more independent.
There is one milestone, however, that I have been dreading since my first child was little.
My oldest turned 14 this summer. It’s time for him to learn to drive a car.
For once my maternal trepidation isn’t irrational. Motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of death for teens in the US. And although I would give anything for two or three extra years, he has been asking to get behind the wheel and practice.
We’re in the very beginning stages of this journey; he’s studying for his permit, and we still have two years before he’s driving on his own. Before we enroll him in a formal Driver’s Ed program, we want to lay a solid foundation to help him make safe choices behind the wheel.
Here are a few helpful tips we’ve discovered while helping our teen learn to drive:
Set A Good Example
Modeling good driving behavior is one of the most important things I can do for my teen. Buckling my seat belt, staying within the speed limit, and even watching my language behind the wheel are all crucial lessons my son will observe and hopefully internalize when he starts driving alone.
And although seat belts and speed limits are essential behaviors for a young driver to observe, eliminating phone use behind the wheel is a must. There’s no call or text that is so important it can’t wait until you arrive at your destination. If you absolutely must take a call, find a spot to pull over. This is admittedly hard for me, but I realize I need to practice what I preach if I want my son to do the same. My new policy is for phone use in the car is to turn the ringer off, and leave it in my purse.
There’s An App For That
Here’s where your teen’s love of technology and driving do mix: the Iowa Driver Test Prep App. We downloaded this for our our son, and he can study the ins and outs of driving anytime, anywhere.
Practice Makes Perfect
If possible, locate some safe, controlled environments to practice driving with your child. We’ve been fortunate in that we’ve had opportunities to start small with our son; both sets of grandparents live in the country. Empty parking lots are also a good place for teens to practice.
Once you have found an ideal practice space, you can go over the basics of consistent speed, turn signals, and steady breaking. It’s also important to practice driving in a variety of conditions (such as rain and light snow) and at night.
Keep Calm and Drive On
Try to stay as calm as possible while your child practices behind the wheel. Just like anything else, if you’re overly anxious, your child will be too. Although you want your child to drive with caution, a jittery, anxious driver can be just as dangerous as a reckless one. Manage your expectations and know your teen will make mistakes. Try to keep feedback calm and constructive so your teen feels empowered to make responsible driving choices.
You Make The Call
What if after hours of practice and study your teen just doesn’t seem ready to drive? You, as the parent, have the final say. Just because your teen may meet the legal age requirement to drive doesn’t mean they’re ready. Be prepared to stand firm if you think your child needs more time.
In the end, teaching your child to drive can be yet another rewarding milestone. With appropriate planning and the right mindset, your teen will have all the skills he or she needs to become an empowered and responsible driver.