Relax, your child is only learning how to drive!

With emotions and independence, learning to drive involves everyone’s patience.

View of a car's dashboard.
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One of the biggest landmark moments in the life of a teenager is learning to drive. This task involves the development of a skill set that takes lots of practice, patience and emotional growth.

This skill development applies to teenagers and the adults in their lives. Everyone involved in learning the mastery of driving will need to become comfortable with developing greater independence, feelings of anxiousness and nervousness, fear, stress and the give and take involved with learning. As you begin the journey, has a great guide available online for parents focusing on preparing their teenager to drive.

As adults, and caregivers, it is very important to stay calm, open-minded and trusting as teenagers take the keys and begin to drive the family car. Remember, driving a car is all about developing independence while staying safe, following the rules and learning to trust those willing to educate. Adults doing the teaching need to take into account the amount of stress and nervousness that comes with learning to safely operate a roughly two-ton vehicle. To help with decisions on when to begin driver education, provides an excellent parent checklist.

So, the question is, “How are you dealing with driving as a parent?” It is extremely important to stay calm and speak clearly when educating your teenager on the rules of the road. Remember, every moment is a teachable moment whether it be teaching how to operate the car itself, the most appropriate lane to drive in, how to make a correct turn using the signal or understanding the signage on the road. It is also important for adults to be mindful of their own habits while driving as teens may imitate those habits. Some areas you might want to evaluate include speeding, texting, talking on the phone, yelling at other drivers or making inappropriate hand gestures. It is important to remember that children watch and imitate the adults around them well into adolescence and beyond. The main goal is to teach your teen to be a competent, safe, and focused driver.

After understanding how adults play into the driving equation, we really need to look at the perspective of the teenager while learning the process of driving. Learning to drive can be a very long and arduous process filled with stressful and anxious moments. Getting behind a steering wheel for the first time can be both exciting and fear inducing.

Through learning to drive, teens are working to increase their independence while at the same time relying on adults in their lives for guidance, patience and understanding. New drivers are not only learning to operate a vehicle safely but they are also learning the importance of following established rules and being patient with others. For many teenagers, this is the first time they are learning about laws and societal rules that can directly affect their lives through the choices they make. Adults have to be patient with them as they work through new and unknown fear and anxiety.

If you find yourself stressed about helping your teenager learn to drive, consider attending a Michigan State University Extension program called Stress Less with Mindfulness to help relieve the stress.

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