How do you help your child become a skilled and safe driver without turning into a nervous wreck?
The process might be slightly different depending on the state where you live, but in most states, after you’ve collected your child’s paperwork (a passport/birth certificate + his original social security card) and applied for a learner’s permit, and after he/she has passed the knowledge test and completed at least 6 hours of driving school instruction (most or all of these steps can be done through your local driving school), it’s now up to you, the parent, to make sure your child is ready for the road once the year elapses.
First off, kudos to any mother or father, who is willing to take their child driving. It isn’t such a big deal for an instructor because we have a dual brake, plus driving school cars are small so it’s easier to handle and easy enough for us to reach over and grab the wheel. However, true dedication is driving with one’s child while holding on for dear life to the OMG bar with a firm white knuckle grip (for the uninitiated moms out there, this is the bar that is located above the front passengers head which is supposedly for hanging suits). That is true dedication which can only be inspired by the selfless love of a parent!
Still, it is always a good idea to do whatever one can to limit the stress and fear levels in the car so that it does not feed off of itself and then perpetuate and boil over into stress in the home!
Here are a few tips for moms with beginning drivers:
- Always remember that you should project an outer sense of calmness and trust. As mentioned, fear will often feed off itself and perpetuate until it becomes a distraction which is, of course, not a good idea when driving.
- While it is good to project calmness and trust, trust still does need to be earned. Therefore, it is always a good idea to start in a parking lot just so your child can learn the feel of your particular vehicle. This also gives each parent a chance to settle in and get a feel for how their child is doing. It is a lot easier to observe the mechanics of how they control the car as well as their mental state of mind, assessing their surroundings, etc. while driving in a quiet and self-contained parking lot. After that, you can slowly build things up. Remember, you will have many many months of practice, so don’t try to bite off more than you can chew. There’s no reason to rush things.
- Once you are comfortable leaving the parking lot area for practice, it is a good idea to drive a specific route back-and-forth a bunch of times. By doing so, your son, or daughter will be less distracted by their surroundings. They also won’t simultaneously be trying to follow directions of where to go, as they are well aware of and familiar with the route.
- Obviously, a very good idea is to put your foot down early on of not allowing outside distractions, such as friends in the car, radio, or cell phone usage.
- Always remind your child that all it takes is one second of inattention to cause an accident, and the results could last months, years, or be permanent! If they see a friend while they are driving, they should not honk or wave. In general, they should learn early on that driving is a responsibility which requires that the driver always be aware and focused.
- Try to keep all instructions simple. If you overwhelm them while they are driving, they will become distracted and might also make rush decisions
- Incentivizing good driving habits and behaviors is crucial.
- Always make sure that your son or daughter knows the importance of applying the brakes a little bit earlier than perhaps you would normally do. This allows time to correct themselves if they are on the one pedal. Of course this goes doubly so for bad weather conditions, as they aren’t used to calculating as they may slide a bit involuntarily.
- It’s a great habit to ask your son or daughter if they see something ahead: how do they plan on approaching a potential issue or danger? Once they have spoken out their thought process, you can either correct it or you will feel relieved with how they are approaching it. Never leave communication until the last second or even worse, unspoken, completely.
- Honking should be ignored insomuch as the student driver shouldn’t make a decision because of it or let it affect their mood. Yes, they should definitely ask the question when there is honking, if there is something that they are doing wrong, or need to improve upon, but generally speaking, if the honking is simply because of impatience, then it is not worth getting riled up or even worse, driving faster in the hopes that the person who is aggressively honking will be pacified.
- They should know never to rely solely and wholly on others. Meaning, if a family member is in the car and they are by a red light, and said family member says “Go!”, your child should know to always first make sure the light is actually green and that it is clear and safe to go. In addition, if someone is being nice by waving your child across the road, they must first make sure independently that it truly is safe.
- Make sure that they use their signals (blinkers) always, and that they use them early enough to give ample warning to the driver behind. Remember newer student drivers are more prone to stepping on pedals, roughly or being off on their timing of when they slow down or speed up. In order to compensate for these lackings in the beginning, it is worthwhile that they signal a bit early and start breaking a little bit early, etc. This way they can communicate to others that they should be wary and leave room.