Was it just yesterday that I was teaching you how to ride a bike? Now I sit frozen in fear as I try to figure out how to help you “learn” to drive. How did this happen? Why do you think I am the best option for teaching you this life skill? How can I preserve our relationship in the process while still keeping my sanity in this very challenging next step into adulthood?

Have you ever asked yourself these questions? Or maybe you are now sitting in fear of your child coming down to ask you this very question? I am not sure how I survived not one, but teaching two kids how to drive. Crazy enough we all lived to tell about it too!

Start With a Conversation

Most parents are scared to death to think of their kids as getting older. Let alone that they are old enough to drive a car. Really, to drive a car on the street where there are millions of cars surrounding them going at high speeds? Or maybe your nightmare begins with entering a freeway and going at speeds in excess of 65 mph? Somehow the thought always ends in disaster, where they spin out of control at the drop of a hat or crash into some unforeseeable obstacle.

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Before you begin spiraling down a rabbit hole of disaster, let’s just start with a conversation with our kids. How is your teen feeling about driving? Are they feeling pressure to drive a car? What are their fears or concerns? Lately I have heard of more kids not being ready to learn to drive a car, yet we are forcing them into the process that they might not be ready for mentally, physically or emotionally.

Give your kids time if they need it. The time doesn’t have to be until they are 40 and still living at home, but don’t rush it if they are not ready to start the process. This can spell disaster right from the start. Talk with your kids about responsibilities and what that means when learning to drive a car. I am not just going to hand over the car keys whenever, there will be rules and responsibilities, both with drinking, texting, friends and distractions.

Continue the Discussion

The conversation doesn’t have to stop at the house. Continue to talk as you begin the driving process with your child. One of the key discussions I had with the girls was to keep talking with me while they were driving.

Discussion can be that you are talking about what you are looking for as you drive. Why you don’t do certain things due to your driving experience. It also is making sure you are driving responsibility. How is your speed while you drive? Are you driving distracted? Are you an aggressive driver who is always on the horn with other drivers or tailgating or yelling at others that get in your way. Your kids are watching how you model driving, whether you want them to or not. (and it starts long before they grab the keys to start learning how to drive.)

Having a discussion sounds contrary to what you want to teach your kids when learning how to drive, but since I can’t read their minds while I am entrusting my life to them in the passenger seat. We came up with a process that helped my controlling personality and their need not to be nagged while driving. This seemed to work not only for my girls but myself. You see, for me, it was helpful for me to keep my sanity by having the girls talk to me about what they were doing or what they were thinking as they navigated the cars on the road.

As the girls got behind the wheel, they would talk their way through what they were doing. For instance, “I am backing up now, putting the car in reverse and checking to my right and left. Looking in my mirrors.” Or when asking them to make a right turn ahead. I would hear, I am checking my mirror and looking over my shoulder. While it may seem like overkill to some, for us, it helped us navigate a new situation and a sometimes controlling Mother, safely sitting in the passenger seat while a new driver navigates the busy roads around us.

Start Small

Have you heard the old adage of baby steps?

Well for us, that is how we navigated the driving lessons too. We started as probably many think to do…in a parking lot. A VERY EMPTY parking lot! While it is a great location to work on parking in those very small parking spaces and finding just the right technique for getting your automobile just right between the ever decreasing space between the white lines. It is also a great location to work on braking, accelerating, overall control of the car as you begin getting comfortable with the controls, turn signals, brake pressure and the very challenging smooth starts and stops.

There were many, many afternoons cruising around empty school parking lots in the summer or evening hours while we sometimes went over a curb or an island. But better here than out with other automobiles next to us that can “jump” in our way.

After mastering the parking lot, we then graduated to quiet residential streets. Let me emphasize…VERY QUIET Residential streets. This allowed us to slowly escalate our speed while still being able to work on mastering the basics. Of course, this is all happening while they are “talking” to me.

While this seems so simple this helped protect all parties involved, not only from injury, but from very heated arguments in the car. I can proudly say that while I may have received a few gray hairs from the overall experience, I have lived to tell about it, which is a win in my book.

teen driver in a blue car

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Laura Miller
Laura was born in California and hasn’t moved far since, a true California girl at heart. She and her husband John have been happily married for 25 years. They are blessed with two amazing daughters, Allison (20) is attending college locally and is studying to become a Nurse and Kristina (16) is finishing her Junior year of High School and already dreaming big dreams. Their last member of the family is a 10-year-old Yorkshire Terrier, Stewie. He is the attempt to help balance out the female hormones and not sure that worked out for her husband. Each day, Laura and John strive to support each other and hopefully not mess up too badly as they raise their girls in this crazy world.


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