Learning to drive is an exciting (and white-knuckled!) experience for both parents and teenagers. Here are some simple, straight-forward tips which helped my first daughter and I get through it. Only three more kids to go!
- Learn to operate the vehicle first, then learn to drive. When Isabella was starting out, we spent lots of time in vacant parking lots on Sunday afternoons learning about our minivan. We went over starting, stopping, changing gears, backing up, parking, and where the controls were (turn signals, heating / air conditioning, etc.,–except the radio! I told her she didn’t need any music until much, much later). Driving came later-after she understood how the car worked and how to operate it.
- Find low-traffic, secondary roads to start driving on. This allows the new driver the opportunity to practice curves, turns, speed limits, and signaling. It’s exciting for the kid and provides a longer learning curve.
- Don’t wait for the learner’s permit. I know this may sound questionable, and I certainly don’t mean for kids to be on main roads, but as in #2 above, we started on country roads. If you wait until the permit, the pressure is on to drive-drive-drive. We elected to take it slow and deliberate. By the time she got her permit, it was still exciting, but not so pressure-filled.
- Change the tire. I know it’s a little antiquated, but I insisted that my daughter learn how to change a tire. It’s often easier to simply call the insurance company (if you have the right coverage) but that might not always be possible or time expedient. Changing tires seems to be getting more complicated instead of easier as manufacturers make them less and less accessible.
- Make them pump gas and pay for it. I provided the money, but made Isabella run the pump and go pay for it. The intent was for her to start to appreciate the gas tank wasn’t bottomless and it costs money to run a car. I also took her along once or twice to have the oil changed.
- Merging from an on-ramp to the freeway or main road. I explained (repeatedly) that it was a negotiation between her and the drivers on the primary road. She did not have the “right” to take the main road, rather the other drivers may speed up, slow down, or change lanes to allow her. Or they might not!
- Do donuts! Sounds crazy right? My daughter and I found a big, empty, snow-covered parking lot and I demonstrated and then let her get the feel for skidding and sliding in slippery conditions. I thought it would be better for her to explore these boundaries under my supervision rather than reacting to the “dares” of peers later.
So there’s a few ideas that have helped us. Hope you find them useful!