It’s the moment every parent both looks forward to and dreads — your teenager getting behind the wheel for the first time. It’s an exciting rite of passage for your child, but it’s often terrifying for you as a parent. You have to hand over the reins and teach them how to navigate the rules of the road safely.
Before you freak out, here are a few tips and tricks to help you get your teen ready for that last big milestone before adulthood.
Practice What You Preach
The fastest way to get a teenager to do something is to tell them not to do it. That sentiment goes double for behaviors you don’t want them to learn while they’re behind the wheel, like texting and driving.
When you’re teaching your teen — and even before they get their permit — it’s a good idea to practice what you preach. If you don’t want them to text and drive, keep your phone in your pocket or purse. If you want them to drive at a safe speed, make sure you’re doing the same.
Try to Be Patient
Whatever you do, don’t get impatient with your new driver. Give them time and let them take things at their own speed. You wouldn’t take a non-swimmer and toss them in the deep end of the pool, and you shouldn’t take a new driver and drop them on the freeway. Your teen will let you know when they’re ready.
Don’t Forget Insurance
Be ready for sticker shock when it comes to insuring your student driver. Female drivers will increase your premium by 67%, and male drivers will increase it by a whopping 92%. Insurance is essential, though, so don’t forget to add them to your policy — and don’t skimp on coverage. You may never need it, but it’s always better to have, just in case.
Don’t Direct, Ask
Your teen is probably just as nervous behind the wheel as you are in the passenger seat. Ordering them around is only going to make them more worried and could lead to accidents. Instead of directing, correct them by asking questions.
Don’t say, “You need to go faster here!” or “Slow down!” if they’re not sticking to the speed limit. Instead, phrase it as a question. “What’s the speed limit here?” Not only does this approach let them know they’re doing something wrong, it teaches them to be aware of things like speed limit signs on the side of the road.
Teach Them to Be Aware
One of the best things you can learn as a new driver is to be aware of everything around you, including traffic patterns, the movement of other cars, weather and everything in between. This skill isn’t something you learn quickly or easily, but it’s still the most valuable thing your teen driver will learn. Teach them situational awareness, and they’ll stay safe on the road.
Make sure you stock your car with plenty of safety equipment to give you peace of mind. Add a portable batter charger to jump start a low battery and put some extra blankets and water containers in the trunk. Knowing they have what they need to stay safe will take some of the stress out of the whole situation.
Is Your Teen Ready to Drive? Don’t Panic
Above all else, don’t panic. This step is a milestone for both your teen and you. Panic will stress your kids out, and agitated new drivers make mistakes. With enough preparation and practice, they’ll be ready to pass the test and drive safely.