As if it’s not hard enough on your nerves that your teen is old enough to start learning to drive (where did the years go?), you’re also being asked to spend between 40 to 50 hours behind the wheel with them, helping them to learn their way around the inside of the vehicle, as well as safely handle the vehicle on the road.
If the thought of teaching your teen how to drive has your hair turning grey prematurely, we’re here to help. AMA driving instructor, Terry Ma says your teen learning to drive doesn’t have to be a stressful experience for either of you; in fact, it can be an enjoyable time as you help transition them into greater independence. Don’t believe us? Read on for Ma’s nerve-calming tips for parent coaches:
- Stay calm and don’t get too nervous. This is probably the most important thing you can do. You may not realize it, but your teen is already nervous when they start off in the vehicle, and if they know mom and dad are nervous too, it’s going to rub off on them, making them even more nervous. And, the more nervous they are, the more likely they are to make mistakes.
- Keep your eyes moving at all times. This tip isn’t just for parents on high alert; it’s good to teach your teen to have a 360-degree visual around the car by constantly moving their eyes. Doing so allows them to see where the hazards are, and to see what’s happening around the car so they always know where the dangers are, instead of being caught off guard.
- Check mirrors before hitting the brakes. On the road, you already know what’s in front of your car, but you don’t always know what’s going on behind it. There could be another car or a semi truck, which is following too closely to safely press the brakes, so stopping in that situation could be dangerous. That’s why it’s important to teach your teen to make sure it’s safe to press the brakes before applying pressure on the brake pedals.
- Encourage commentary driving. Get your teen to talk about the hazards they see going on around them on the road. By talking about potential hazards and dangers, what could happen, and how they would react to solve that situation, you will have a good idea of how far ahead they are looking, what they are looking at, and whether they are seeing certain hazards. What you consider a hazard, your teen might not, so this is a good opportunity to help them learn how to identify hazards. Commentary driving can also help calm your nerves because you won’t have to warn your new driver to watch out for anything, because you’ll know that they’ve already seen potential dangers.
- Make use of empty parking lots. These open spaces make learning to drive a bit easier for everyone because you don’t have to worry about hitting anything or anyone (thus, taking care of your nerves again). As your teen feels more comfortable, progress them to driving on residential streets, and then on main roads and highways (slow and steady progression wins the driving race here).
- Don’t yell. Be patient. You need to accept that mistakes are going to happen — they are part of the learning process. Just make sure your teen knows where they made a mistake and how to correct it. The most important thing is making sure that they know to learn from their mistakes so they don’t make them again in the future.
- Build confidence through encouragement. You don’t want to play taxi driver to your teen forever, so keep the driving lesson positive so your teen doesn’t get so frustrated they no longer want to drive.
To help you feel even more confident in your new role as driving coach, we recommend you take our free online coaching tutorial, where you’ll learn about Graduated Driver’s Licences, strategies to help your new drivers, along with an overview of the topics covered in our AMA New Driver programs.
For more information review our Coaching Resources for Parents of Teen Drivers page.