Teach Your Teen to Drive (Without Losing Your Cool)

There are few things as exciting for a teenager than the idea of finally getting behind the wheel. We all remember the glory days of learning to drive: the promise of freedom, the lure of the open road, the dream of our first car—such a magical time. Little did we know that most of our parents riding shotgun were constantly on the verge of a panic attack.

Fast forward a few years later and now it’s your turn to teach your teen to drive. As intimidating as the thought might be, don’t worry—we’ve got some handy tips to help you keep calm when it comes time for you to get in the passenger’s seat!

Brush Up on Your Own Skills

Not all states require parents to take a driver education class before teaching their teens, but it could be a good idea anyway. The rules of the road will be fresh in your mind for your sessions with your teen, plus it could give you your own opportunity to learn by example—you can copy the teaching techniques you like from your own instructor (and possibly learn what techniques to avoid.) Hello, teacher confidence!

Set a Good Example

We all know we should be good role models for our kids, but never is this more important than when your teen starts to drive. Now that they know the rules, they’ll be watching you and will notice whether you follow them or not. The way you behave behind the wheel sets a precedent for your teen. If you frequently change lanes without using your turn signal, or are inclined to fits of road rage, chances are they will too.

Make a List

Driving is about more than just actual driving. Your teen will need to learn everything, from how to safely fill the gas tank to what’s the correct distance to sit from the steering wheel. Before either of you get overwhelmed by the sheer amount there is to learn, make yourselves a list of the skills your teen will need to master. Start with learning about the vehicle itself and how to maintain it, then move on to basic operations. Eventually, you can work your way up to the harder stuff, like what to do when driving in snowy weather, or how to correctly merge onto the interstate. In the meantime, having your list and crossing items off as you go will help you stay on task and give you both a sense of accomplishment.

Be Aware of Emotions

This means both your own feelings and theirs. Try to be conscious of your teen’s mood before getting in the car with them. If they’ve had a fight with their best friend or failed a test at school, it may not be the best time to hop behind the wheel. Even if their mood is fine at the start of the lesson, stay in tune with them. If they start to get testy, do your best not to become argumentative or get frustrated with them (even if they’re frustrated with you!) Research shows that when there is tension in the car, parents provide less feedback in general, and what feedback they do provide isn’t usually focused on safety.

Ask Questions

Speaking of feedback, it can be a tricky thing to give. You want to be able to give your teen notes that don’t sound like nagging (especially since they know everything already, right?). Instead of stating what they’re doing wrong, try asking a question that will allow them to figure it out on their own. For example, instead of saying “Make sure you adjust your mirrors!”, ask “Can you see out of all your mirrors?” This way they can find the answer for themselves, and it won’t sound like you’re getting on their case.

Give It Time

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your teen’s driving abilities are no exception. The basics might come quickly, but it takes time and repetition to really teach your teen about the road. Think back to your own learning experience—how much did you learn about driving from reading vs. actually driving? Your teen needs to practice a lot, and the CDC recommends letting them gain experience in a variety of environments and road conditions. This means taking them out at different times of day (and night), in different types of weather, and letting them drive in the city, in the country, and on highways. They need to be prepared for the long haul!

Driving can be stressful, no matter how long you’ve been doing it. Even though your teen might be excited to learn to drive, they might also be nervous. But even though you might be feeling some pressure, Apparent is there to help put your mind at ease with unique features for teen drivers and parents of teens. They’re looking to you to provide them with a sense of calm, confidence, and support. So take a deep breath, buckle up, and remember: you guys have got this!