FIVE WAYS TO KEEP YOUR COOL WHEN YOUR TEEN STARTS DRIVING

Nothing inflicts fear and trembling on a mom like watching her child grab the keys, hop into the driver’s seat and drive away. ALONE.

I’ve been there. Our oldest daughter got her driver’s license a couple of years ago. Now, just when I was beginning to relax, girl number two got her permit.

How in the world does a mom keep her cool during a stressful time like this? Good question. I’m still trying to figure that out. However, I will share a few tips that have helped me so far.

Drive the way you want them to drive.
Turns out, I’ve been teaching my kids how to drive since I buckled them into car seats. Day after day, year after year, they have watched me behind the wheel. (Yikes!) They watched how I reacted every time my cell phone dinged. They watched to see if I buckled my seatbelt. They watched how I dealt with the slow-as-molasses driver in front of me.

And it only gets worse once they start Driver’s Ed …

“Um, Mom, what’s the speed limit through here?”
“Shouldn’t you have used your turn signal?”
“That wasn’t a COMPLETE stop.”

Driving with my teen makes me feel like I’m taking a driver’s test. But I’m glad. I want her to be conscientious and careful. Our kids are always watching. Now more than ever, it’s important to set a good example.

You MUST keep calm and let them drive on.
There is something very strange about sitting in the passenger seat while your child drives. No doubt you’ll have flashbacks of teaching them how to hold a spoon or sit on the potty. Now suddenly, that same kid is operating a motor vehicle and passing oncoming traffic at 55+ miles-per-hour.

You probably won’t feel calm on the inside, but you MUST look calm on the outside. If you look scared to death, it will only create more anxiety in your young driver. Neither of you need that.

It really is a learning experience for both of you. Your kid is learning how to drive. You’re learning how to sit in the passenger seat without screaming or pushing your foot through the invisible passenger-side brake. You’ll both need plenty of practice.

Discuss expectations.
There is a lot to discuss with a teenager who’s about to get their driver’s license. Curfews, passengers, cellphones, eating while driving, restricted driving areas. Your expectations about these and many other topics must be clear. Some parents use a parent-teen driving contract. I’ve seen a few examples online. Here’s one from idrivesafely.com.

Our family has a rule that gives me much peace of mind. Whenever my daughter drives to a new location, we expect her to send us a text. Our text history looks something like this: Leaving school. K. At volleyball. K. Going to Whitey’s. K – bring me home something. Heading home. K.

Safety is always the top priority:
When I turned sixteen, I couldn’t wait to get my driver’s license. On my birthday, I went to the DMV and took my test. Twice, actually. I forgot my turn signal and had to do it again. It’s funny how I see things much differently as a parent. (I mean really, what’s the rush?)

My oldest daughter made a wise decision when she turned sixteen. She waited a little longer to get her license. She admitted that she just didn’t feel comfortable driving on her own. We continued to practice with her. We encouraged her. But we didn’t pressure her. Of course, if she still didn’t feel ready by the time she turned twenty, then that’s a whole ‘nother issue.

Bottom line, just because they can drive, doesn’t mean they should. If you sense they’re not ready, there’s no shame in giving it more time. Sure, it’s more convenient if they can drive themselves to school or practice. But safety always trumps convenience.

If you have concerns after your teen gets their license, there are several apps that can monitor their driving. Completing Driver’s Ed and getting a license doesn’t make them an experienced driver. It makes them a beginner.Pray. A lot.
I’m not even kidding. Yes, I feel uneasy with my girls on the road. However, I think my fear and anxiety is more about my lack of control than my daughter being in danger. I have to remember, just because I’m feeling helpless (or letting go of control) doesn’t automatically mean she’s in danger.

If you’re not one who normally prays, here’s a gentle reminder. Fifty-five miles-per-hour … oncoming traffic … sixteen-year-old love of your life. If you haven’t prayed by now, I can’t think of a better time to start.

I refuse to dwell on the what if’s. “What if’s” can drive (see what I did there?) a mama crazy. I do my best to teach them well. I say a prayer. Then I trust that God is watching over them – even when I can’t.

I know it sounds scary, but it does get easier. You’ll appreciate not having to chauffer them around all the time.

Remember, the whole goal of parenting is to raise those babies to become responsible, independent adults. They’ve been practicing since they began crawling. This is just one more step in reaching that goal.

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