For kids, few milestones are as important as getting their driver's license. It's more than just gaining the skills to be able to drive a car and getting from here to there more quickly than they could before. It's a sign of independence and a major step toward adulthood. That said, it's almost always a fairly stressful time in the life of any parent. If you're getting ready to teach your teen to drive, here are a few tips to make the lessons as productive and enjoyable as possible:
Keep the mood light
Do you learn best when people are barking orders at you? Probably not, and it's doubtful your already-stressed teen is going to respond well in that situation, either. Make sure you're as calm as possible, especially in early lessons or when trying new things, like highway driving for the first time. If your young driver is tense and stressed out, it's more likely he or she will make careless mistakes or overreact to relatively minor situations. Focus on positive reenforcement instead of constantly pointing out what your teen is doing wrong. This will help build confidence and speed the learning process along.
Short sessions are best
For the first few trips, keep the lessons short and sweet, gradually lengthening them as the new driver gets more comfortable behind the wheel. Learning something as intense and elaborate as driving can be both mentally and physically tiring, and the longer you go at it, the more exhausted you'll both get. This will increase the likelihood of frustration building, and productivity will drop significantly.
Choose the first driving location carefully
If you live in a city or on a busy street, it's probably best that you drive to the first location to get started. Find an empty parking lot or a residential area that sees little traffic so the new driver can focus on what he or she is doing and not on other cars whizzing by.
Cut out distractions
Playing with the radio, texting or talking on the phone are all unsafe activities for any driver to engage in. Because new drivers still must focus on every aspect of driving, these distractions are especially dangerous for them. Make sure their cellphone is out of reach at all times and keep music low or off altogether.
Practice emergency driving
If you're teaching your teen to drive in a part of the country that gets snow regularly, consider heading out on snowy roads once he or she is comfortable enough on dry pavement. In many areas, safe driving on wet, snowy or icy pavements is a must for a large part of the year, so practice is essential. In addition, most drivers will encounter emergency situations - having to slam on their brakes suddenly or swerve to avoid something on the road - so practicing these maneuvers in a controlled environment like an empty parking lot is essential.
Remember to educate your teen about the importance of car insurance and contact your provider to find out how your required insurance needs will change.