You approach the old beater you purchased just for this occasion: an ’04 SUV with less than stellar gas mileage, but wonderful safety ratings. You stop at the passenger door and reach down to open it – only to notice you’re visibly shaking. You take a shaky breath as you try and calm your nerves. Already in the driver’s seat is the very object of your demise, and also the love of your life. Your firstborn child.
“Mom, come on, I’ve got this! I passed the exam and it only took two tries!”
For some reason, you don’t feel comforted.
You open the door and slide into the old leather seat, worn from years of exposure to sunlight and who-knows-what. The air is musty, uncirculated.
You meet the eager eyes of your child and hand the key over, sealing your fate. We know, it’s terrifying, probably more so for you than it is for your invincible youth. How you react to that fear will determine how the rest of the learning process will go. Here are a few tips for teaching your teenager how to drive.
Channel your inner Ryan Gosling
That first trip out, the initial turn into actual, moving traffic will be one of the most helpless moments in your life. Trusting your child to observe all the traffic laws, stay within the lines, merge properly and keep their eyes on the road around them is difficult. These are all skills most of us take for granted. But it’s best they don’t know just how difficult it is for you. Channel your inner actor/actress and remain calm despite how you feel. It may feel like you’re going to tear a hole right in the chunk of seat you have clenched in your right hand. As long as they don’t know just how terrified you are, all is well. Maintain outward composure.
Think twice before you speak or act
This rule is good for most situations in life, but especially for teaching someone to drive. Your daughter takes that turn just a little too sharp, nearly taking out a stop sign. Your reaction might be to grab the steering wheel or ask her what mental ailment might have overtaken her, but neither will help you or them. Calmly let your son or daughter know that they took that turn just a tad too sharp and let them know how they can do it better at the next intersection.
Remember it’s a two-way street
Consider how they, too, might be feeling. They might have been confident at first, but suddenly they are actually driving, in control of a large motor vehicle. They likely feel insecure or inadequate to complete the task before them. It’s important to be careful how you speak, avoiding accusatory language or being combative. Let them know you trust them, even if it’s taking every ounce of willpower not to snatch that steering wheel each time they start to stray into another lane.
Teaching a teenager to drive will be terrifying, but that’s alright. It’s a rite of passage, one that you survived at their age. Be firm, but constructive in your feedback. Avoid lashing out in anger, even if that is our gut reaction most of the time.