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October 7, 2014

Teaching Your Teen to Drive While Remaining ScreamFree…Mostly

Sarah Headshot Oct2013 HDRWanna see a parent freak out? Talk to them about their teen learning to drive. It can make a grown man cry. OK, maybe not, but most parents are scared to death about the idea, and when you think about it, there are justifiable reasons for parents to be nervous for their kids (and others!).

  • They will be driving a two-ton machine that is capable of crushing another human being.
  • Their frontal lobes are not finished developing which means they are not fully able to make rational decisions.
  • They think that just because they can drive a golf cart, they have this car thing down.
  • Most parents can remember some crazy things they did when they were teen drivers.

It’s enough to bring a parent to her knees. Let my baby drive a two-ton torpedo filled with gasoline? Are you kidding me?

And then there are the driving lessons. Why do you think so many parents ship their kids off to a driving school? Let another adult take those risks!

I have to confess, though, that I’m a bit of an anomaly in this arena. I am a teacher by nature, so I was perhaps more excited than my son when he got his learner’s permit. No, I WAS more excited. It was a chance to teach him a great life skill and also to challenge myself personally. Could I do this without freaking out? That was my goal. So here were my “lesson plans”:

Start slowly. I may have enjoyed this process, but I’m not stupid. The first several hours he spent behind the wheel were in a parking lot…with no one around…SO HE COULDN’T WRECK AND KILL ANYONE. We spent plenty of time accelerating, slowing down, parking between cones, and stopping at imaginary stop signs. And my blood pressure was pretty normal.

Calm down. This was my mantra. “Just stay calm, Sarah.” ScreamFree teaches that if we give in to our anxiety, we’re far more likely to actually create the very outcome we’re hoping to avoid. If I FREAK OUT while he’s driving, guess what?!? He’s MORE likely to be involved in a wreck. So my most important goal was to stay calm no matter what. When he’s getting too close to the shoulder, stay calm. When he’s going too fast around a curve, stay calm. Yes, teach him, tell him to watch out, tell him to slow down, but don’t freak out.

Don’t sit in the back seat. Several months in to this process, my son drove our family to church and my husband was the front seat passenger, which put me in the back seat. People, that’s scary! I suddenly fully understood the meaning of “back seat driver”. I felt completely out of control and wanted to tell him what to do at the same time that my husband was telling him what to do. You know what’s worse than one parent freaking out? TWO! For the love. Just don’t do it. Don’t have two adult, licensed drivers in the car when your teen is learning. It’s too much—for you and for him.

So while teaching your teen to drive can be an overwhelming and scary experience, it’s also a picture of launching your child into a successful adulthood, as you, both literally and figuratively, hand over the controls.

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