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10 tips for teaching your teen to drive without having a family meltdown

Yes, it’s terrifying letting your teen behind the wheel, but it has to be done. Unless, that is, you prefer to be a chauffeur (unpaid, naturally) to your adult children for the rest of their lives. Didn’t think so.

Besides, your parents once taught you to drive, and that went swimmingly, right? Okay, maybe not. Let’s face it, it was super-stressful for everyone involved. Before things turn to tears, here are some tips that will make teaching your kid to drive as painless as possible.

Set a good example

The first step ideally takes place before you even start teaching your kid. The behaviour you model is going to be the behaviour that your teen thinks of as normal. It might seem harmless to leave your seatbelt off when you’re just moving your car across the street or going around the block quick, but you can’t expect your teen to always wear their seatbelt if they’ve seen you not wear yours. Just don’t do anything you wouldn’t want your child doing, road raging definitely included.

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Do your kid’s homework

No, really. You’ve been driving for years, which means you know your stuff, but it also means that it’s been awhile since you’ve had to think about all the little things that you do automatically when you drive. Take a flip through the materials they have for teens to study up on before their test. Do you remember that looking at the tires of parked cars to judge if they’re pulling out is called grounding? Studying up will help you better communicate the minute details that you don’t actively think about when you’re driving. Hey, you might even learn something yourself.

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Check your insurance

The last thing you want when you’re teaching your teenager to drive is to get pulled over for something, especially if it’s something as preventable as having the right insurance. When was the last time your car was insured for young drivers? It’s hard enough trying to get your teen to listen to you about following distance under normal circumstances, so you don’t need the ticket or the blow to your credibility.

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Decide what to teach before the lesson

It’s tempting to just get out on the road and address things as they come up, but making a list of things to focus on during driving sessions is a much better teaching technique. It’ll also help you make sure that you don’t forget anything important. Involve your teen in deciding what to tackle for each lesson. Again, this will also help you realize all the little things you do when you drive that you normally don’t think about.

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Get rid of distractions

Treat your lessons like actual lessons. The fewer distractions there are, the more focussed your teen will be. Leave the radio off, at least until they get comfortable on the road (and you get comfortable with them being on the road). There are enough distracting things outside the car that your teen’s attention span has to contend with, so do what you can to minimize those inside the car. Once they’ve got the basics down, then you can do your carpool karaoke, family edition.

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Plan your route

Have a plan of different areas you’re going to take your teenager. Start out in an unpopular parking lot, know where to take them to teach them about parking on a hill, take them downtown when they’re more comfortable. You don’t want to get caught offguard when your child’s behind the wheel and the only way to get home is to merge onto a busy highway, meanwhile you haven’t even got to parallel parking yet.

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Don’t get infected by your teen’s impatience

Your teen is most likely going to want to learn to drive as soon as possible, and that eagerness can be contagious. The important thing is not to rush into it because you’re excited, or get frustrated when they don’t pick things up quickly. The biggest priority should be safety, for those in and outside of the car. Don’t let your teen put pressure on you, and don’t put unnecessary pressure on your teen.

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Be motivational

Learning to drive can be an intimidating step for your teen. Putting them in control of a two-ton hunk of metal is the ultimate symbol of independence for a teenager, and that responsibility can be scary. Plus, it requires a big time commitment. There’s no guarantee that your teen will catch on immediately, but don’t let them get discouraged. Like any challenge your kid takes on, be there to encourage them to keep going and do their best.

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Correct them with questions

Instead of immediately pointing out something that your teen has missed, ask them a leading question so that they’ll come the realization on their own. Instead of telling them there’s a school zone so they should slow down, ask them if they see any signs. When they discover the answer themselves, they’ll feel more accomplished, be more open to your pointers and be encouraged to continuously scan their environment.

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Let someone else do it

Let’s face it, sometimes it’s just better to leave it to the professionals. If none of these other tips seem like they would make enough of an impact, it might be better to hand over the reigns. This could be one of those situations when it’s best to hand things over to an objective third party with actual training. Not only will they have tried and tested techniques for teaching, but your teen might actually listen to them.

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