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I know, thinking about teaching a teenager how to drive has to be one of the scariest thoughts... like ever. I can still remember how afraid I was when I started to learn how to drive. I even accidentally left the car running as I tried to get out once. It actually kept moving forward as I didn’t shift the gear to park. No joke. One of the most terrifying moments of my life.
And probably of my mom’s, too.
Just thinking about getting in a car with an inexperienced and slightly unreliable teenager makes my anxiety levels rise. So when my sister asked me to bring her daughter on some practice driving lessons, I denied her for as long as I could.
But reluctantly, I finally gave in.
Here are some tips for all the parents or guardians that are about to get into a car with a teen for the very first time. Buckle UP.
1. Remember, you're the coach.
It’s really easy to panic when you’re sitting next to an inexperienced driver. It’s almost as if it is instinct. But you need to remember that you’re their protector. You’re going to help them become safe drivers and prevent car accidents from happening. Panicking doesn’t help teach them anything, but that they should be more afraid! So take a deep breath. You can do this.
Just remind yourself that you are their coach. You are the one that is helping them practice getting into good form, you are teaching them the tricks and tips they need to get better, and you are the mold that they need to fit to be safe on the road. If you remind yourself of these things, you will be able to keep yourself calm and collected.
2. Use questions instead of demands.
When your teen is doing something wrong, try using questions to help them correct the issue. If you shout and demand things from them, it will make them feel agitated and more nervous. It could cause unnecessary tension. So try to present questions in front of them that will make them think about how to correct their errors instead. For example, instead of saying, “You need to signal before you change lanes,” try asking, “Do you want others to let you know when they are about to change into your lane? What should they do to show you?”
3. Give them directions early on.
Telling your teen “TURN HERE!” will make them feel more nervousness and could result in them getting spooked. Instead, try telling them things like, “We need to turn left on the next block.” It will allow them to prepare for the change and give them the chance to properly signal before making the turn itself.
As previously mentioned, you should try to avoid anything that could create tension in the car. Creating tension will cause you to react instead of act. You don’t want to react in a way that will make your teen feel more nerves.
4. Never go on popular roads.
I think this one is an obvious one, but going on a popular road to train your teen is a recipe for disaster. It will make yours and their anxiety levels rise. Instead, start practicing in a large enclosed parking lot. Allow them to learn how to maneuver the car and learn how to signal, turn on their lights, and more there. They will feel less pressure with little to no cars around. When you feel like they’re ready to move onto actual road, bring them to a quiet residential area. This will slowly transition them into dealing with more aggressive drivers and busier streets.