Sophomore year of high school. It’s that action-packed, fun-filled year when most teens become old enough to learn how to drive. And parents fear they will never sleep soundly again. You thought you lost sleep when they were babies. Welcome to the mid-teen years.
But relax, Mom and Dad. It doesn’t have to be so scary.
Action cures fear, and the best way to overcome any fear is to face it head on. That certainly goes for the fear of first allowing your teen to get behind the wheel of a car. The only way to master that fear is to go out with them and teach them to how to drive, and you must do it regularly in order for them to get plenty of practice. Remember – practice makes perfect, and that also goes for honing driving skills.
The more teens are allowed to drive, the better they get, and consequently the more at ease you will feel when thinking about sending your precious offspring out on the road with the vast spectrum of driving skills we all see demonstrated on a daily basis, all ranging from extremely rotten to nutty to maybe even very good.
You want your kids to learn how to drive now while they are at home on familiar roads and streets so they will not have to learn later, and so they will be experienced drivers when they go off to college.
I was very thankful for the time our kids spent driving themselves to school every day. I kept telling myself they were gaining valuable driving experience that would add up over time and serve them well later on. I know that was true.
Jimmie Johnson, the famous NASCAR driver, has logged over 153,000 laps on the NASCAR circuit, and has earned over $97 million in winnings. He’s a pretty good driver.
But think about it. Jimmie Johnson’s first race wasn’t the Daytona 500. He began his racing career by racing motorbikes at the tender age of 4. He moved up to off-road racing, then into stock cars. He finally made the transition to the NASCAR circuit 15 years ago, around age 26. He had to learn how to be a better driver over time and work up to the bigger stuff.
Now I am not suggesting your teen will become a NASCAR driver. I know I would certainly never sleep again. But think about some of the driving situations your son or daughter will encounter in their not-too-distant young working lives. I know I want my kids to be prepared.
It takes some time to gain experience, and your teen needs to get as much driving experience as she can, especially before heading off to college in an unfamiliar city.
Imagine your teen in a sticky driving situation. Maybe driving in the midst of busy multiple interstate lanes in Dallas, Texas (yikes!) or driving in midtown Manhattan. Or even driving in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, which is what my oldest daughter does every day to go to work.
Pretty scary? It can be if they have had very little driving experience to prepare them for these potentially hair-raising situations.
Handling hazardous conditions.
Another factor is learning to drive in inclement weather, which is sure to happen sooner or later. Driving in rain or snow can be especially challenging, and getting experience in a controlled driving situation is extremely beneficial. My husband has always enjoyed taking our kids to a large, empty parking lot after a big snow and teaching them how to cut donuts in order for them to get the feel of how to handle the vehicle on slick roads. I know it was purely an educational endeavor. (Not.)
None of us can control what other drivers do, but you can teach your teen to be alert and react appropriately in a lot of situations. The best way to do that is to allow them to practice their driving every day while they are still at home with you as their driving mentor.
We’re in this together.
By now you may have guessed that I am right there with any of you who are going through this driving phase now. In just a few short months, we will be doing the whole permit thing, buying a car, and practicing every chance we get. (For car buying tips, see the article Helping Your Teen Buy a Car Without Going Bankrupt.)
One thing I like about the Kentucky driver’s licensing system is the stringent requirements they put on teens learning to drive. They must pass a written permit test at age 16, log 60 hours of driving time during the 6 months of the permit phase, and pass the road test in order to obtain an intermediate, restricted driver’s license at age 16 ½. Then they must wait another 6 months to get their full, unrestricted license at age 17. Those requirements make them put forth a lot of effort to earn their license, and they get good driving experience. Not a bad thing at all.
So when you stress about your teen hitting the road, just remember this. They need that experience now so they will be better, more skilled drivers later. They may not turn into another Jimmie Johnson, but maybe you can sleep a little better knowing they are on their way to becoming competent drivers.
Do you have a teen who is learning to drive? If so, how are you dealing with the stress of having a teen on the road? Leave a comment below and let me know. I would love to hear your take on the whole driving adventure.
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