Take It from This Mom: 3 Ways to Support Your Teen through Drivers Ed

Editor’s Note: This post was written by Michelle Kennedy Hogan, a Hawaii-based mother of eight children who has sent four teenagers through drivers ed and is currently training with teen No. 5.

A Mother's Advice for Parents New to Driver's Education Sitting in the passenger seat while your baby is in the driver’s seat of the family car can be unnerving. Suddenly, all you see is that tiny newborn you put in the car seat in the back and you likely can’t believe it has been 15 or 16 years already. Even though it’s tough sometimes to realize your child is starting to drive, it’s important to be positive and proactive during the learning process. I have now taught four teens to drive and my fifth teen is starting to talk sports cars.

Your child will likely be required to take drivers’ education classes either through their school or privately, but the majority of their driving learning time will be with you. My oldest two kids learned to drive in Vermont where they needed 30 hours of classroom time, but only 6 hours of driving and 6 hours of passenger time during drivers ed. The new driver also needs to complete 40 hours of practice driving with a parent (or person over 25), 10 hours of which must be nighttime driving hours. That’s a lot of time in the car with mom or dad.

3 Ways to be a Role Model Parent of a Teen in Drivers Ed

  1. Demonstrate good driving practices (if you don’t already). Once you are seasoned driving pros like we are, it can be easy to slip out of those driving practices we were taught in our own driver’s ed. Once a teen hits about 13 years old, you might start to hear a lot of talk about cars and driving. Something happens to a teen and all of a sudden you hear them talking about what kind of car they will buy (usually an overpriced sports car). Or they start to give you driving advice, like, “You could have made that light, Mom.” Once this interest becomes real, make sure you not only start to do the right things all the time, but also be sure to explain why. Make a full stop at every stop sign. Use your blinker. Don’t text! Don’t pass unless it is very safe to do so and explain the situations in which passing is acceptable and not. If I see someone pass on a double yellow line, I will likely explain to my next teen driver why that’s unsafe .
  2. A Mother's Advice for Parents New to Driver's Education Act positive about your teen’s driving. It is so tempting to roll your eyes or act unenthusiastic generally when your teen gets his or her permit. Sometimes, you just want to get where you’re going without having to worry about every little thing when your teen is driving. But, just like learning to do dishes or clean the bathroom, unless your teen gets the chance to practice, they will never get good at it. Toss your teen the keys, feign enthusiasm, and say “Here, you drive.” There is no substitute for experience–especially guided experience by the person who loves them most.
  3. Help them get out and practice. Getting behind the wheel those first few times is scary. Most teens won’t admit it, but think back to your first time or two. Were you excited? Nervous? Terrified? I was all three . I thought for sure that I would be cruising down the road at 55 mph. Turns out 30 mph felt scary and horrifying–at least for a little while. I remember my mother telling me that I could speed up a bit if I wanted to. Finding an empty parking lot on a Sunday afternoon, or a field, or another large, open spot, can give your teen a lot of space to practice. Sometimes, instead of the pressure of the actual road, it’s nice to be able to get really familiar with the car’s controls and quirks by just driving in circles, backing up, speeding up and slowing down, weaving around a bit, practicing parking in a big old lot where there are no other cars aiming for you. Being able to give your teen this kind of comfort with the car , can help their experience level immensely.

Sending your child off into the world in a car is a scary, but necessary part of parenting. Think of all the errands you won’t have to run anymore! But how you behave both as a driver and cheerleader will greatly affect how your teen acts behind the wheel. Being proactive and positive from the beginning can go a long way toward preventing tragedy later on.

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