Help Your Teen Manage Stress Behind the Wheel

October 10th is recognized as World Mental Health Day—a day to show appreciation to mental health professionals as well as reflect on mental health in our everyday life. That’s why we thought it’d be a good opportunity to talk about your teen’s mental health, particularly as it relates to driving.

There’s no disputing that being a teen is stressful, and stress can contribute to poor mental and physical health. We believe that with all that goes on in your teen’s day-to-day life, driving shouldn’t be an extra source of stress. So with that, here are some tips to help teach your teen how to manage stress behind the wheel:

Let them know bad drivers aren’t worth their time

We’ve all been on the road with inconsiderate drivers, and while being tailgated or cut-off is an unfortunate part of driving on public roads, getting upset about it doesn’t have to be. An important (but often overlooked) aspect of driver training is teaching teens how to react appropriately to these inevitable situations, especially when the other driver may be behaving aggressively. Getting bent out of shape will only make matters worse, so be sure to teach your teen to never retaliate in a road rage situation.

Instate car rules

Having clear car rules in place can prevent a lot of stress—both for you and your teen. Examples could be: no driving past 10:00pm, no more than three passengers in the car, everyone must wear seat belts before the car moves, etc. Having rules like this explicitly stated will make your teen much more likely to abide by them. Plus, if your teen gets any push back on them from their peers, they’ll be able to say, “Sorry, my parents won’t let me.”

Never rush while driving

One of the most stressful situations behind the wheel is when you’re running late and trying to make it to your destination on time. Not only does this make for an anxious, chaotic commute, it also can be extremely dangerous. Teach your teen the importance of leaving early when possible, and slowing down while driving. If they struggle with time management, suggest they set alarms on their phone to remind them to leave on time. Let them know it’s better to be safe and late than to have an accident!

Listen to music

The car can actually be a calm, safe place for reflection—especially for teens whose commute time might be the only time they have to themselves all day. An easy way to make the car a place to de-stress and unwind is by playing their favorite music—as long as there are no noisy passengers in the car and the volume is at a reasonable level, of course.

Know when to turn the music off

On the flip side, distracted driving is dangerous driving. Listening to music can help you unwind, but in the wrong situation it can be a hazard. Make sure your teen understands that when they are lost, navigating a new place, or whenever they need to be extra focused, they should stop all distractions and turn their undivided attention to the road.

What do you and your teens do to help relax in the car? Share your tips with us!