Embracing the Milestone with Empathy and Preparation
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Learning to drive is a rite of passage for many teenagers, especially in the United States. It marks an important transition towards independence and adulthood. As a parent, you play a significant role in helping your child navigate this exciting and challenging journey.
Let’s talk about how parents and children can take this journey together while navigating the stress, fear, and excitement surrounding this milestone.
The Importance of Parental Involvement in Learning to Drive
Whether parents like it or not, they’re involved in their children’s driver education from day one. Children observe what you do, how you drive, and distracted behaviors like texting. Typically, parents are their children’s driving coaches, but who coaches them?
“Facilitated programs that engage parents and teens together are shown to positively impact the formers’ role in coaching and monitoring their novice driver and the latter’s safety,” according to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association.
Being in the car with your child for the maximum number of hours possible gives them feedback, guidance, and oversight. Children naturally push boundaries, so your guidance will allow them a safe environment to explore. But you shouldn’t be afraid to put your foot down, either!
Getting Started: Be Informed and Prepared
Start by familiarizing yourself with your state’s Graduated Driver Licensing (GDL) program. The GDL program is designed to reduce the risks associated with teen driving by implementing crucial restrictions, such as curfews or limiting the number of passengers allowed in the vehicle. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports a 40 percent reduction in crash rates among 16-year-old drivers who follow a GDL program.
Next, consider enrolling your child in a trusted driver’s education program. A 2014 study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety revealed that driver education significantly reduces crash rates for teenagers who complete the course.
Strategies to Support Your Child’s Learning
Watching your child grow up can be difficult. These milestones are both stressful and memorable. Here are some strategies you can use to support your while they are learning to drive.
- Plan and set goals: Establish specific, measurable goals for each driving session, such as mastering parking or navigating a roundabout. This helps to structure your practice sessions and create a sense of accomplishment.
- Stay calm and positive: Helping your child learn to drive can be stressful, but it is essential to maintain a calm disposition. Praise their progress and be patient, as this encourages confidence and reduces anxiety. Personally, this was really hard for me because I’d been in a serious accident myself. I had to be open about my anxiety and where it was coming from.
- Communicate openly: Dealing with fears and concerns openly is crucial, as it demonstrates your understanding and creates an environment of trust. Empathize with your child’s experience and share your initial fears and challenges when you first learned to drive.
- Seek diverse perspectives: Don’t be afraid to seek the help of driving instructors or other trusted adults who can provide additional guidance or a different perspective. The driving instructor really helped us because the kids saw the instructor as less judgemental and less biased.
Learning to Drive: Addressing the Risks
Teen drivers have the highest crash risk among all age groups, as reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Factors such as inexperience, susceptibility to distractions, and immaturity contribute to this vulnerability.
As a parent, it’s your responsibility to model and teach responsible driving practices by:
- Enforcing the use of seat belts
- Establishing rules around distractions such as cell phone use or loud music
- Encouraging a designated driver system among friends
- Stressing the importance of respecting speed limits and traffic rules
- Talking about being properly prepared for inclement weather
- Discussing the dangers of being in a hurry and the importance of leaving early
- Speakly freely about the responsibilities of driving and car maintenance expectations
I taught both of my children to drive. It wasn’t always an easy or “fun” experience. We had disagreements and frustrations. The important part is to work through it together and know that there will be bumps along the way. Just take it one day at a time, and you’ll both get there.
In conclusion, supporting your child during this milestone requires empathy, understanding, and active involvement. By creating a supportive and structured learning environment, reinforcing responsible driving practices, and addressing the inherent risks, you pave the way for your teen’s safe and successful journey on the road.
Looking for more parenting advice? Read our parenting advice posts here.