The dos and don’ts of teaching your teenager to drive

Is your teenager reaching the age when they’re ready to learn to drive? Here are the dos and don’ts of teaching them.

Teaching your teenager is an important milestone in both your lives. And as much as it’s filled with excitement for them, it’s usually equally filled with trepidation and anxiety for you as their parent – especially if you’re the one teaching them, or siting beside them as they get practice on the roads.

Trying to guide a headstrong teenager can be a fraught experience, but it’s important that you try to remain calm and guide them safely through this journey. To help you turn your teenager into a confident and safe driver, here are some simple dos and don’ts.

Do encourage and support them

Being able to drive is an exciting experience for many teens, and an important step into the direction of freedom and adulthood. And as their guardian, it’s your responsibility to make them feel supported, and help them take this new step as responsibly as possible.

But as well as excitement, learning to drive, and the responsibility of being in charge of a car can also cause many new drivers anxiety. Indeed, according to reports, around 40% of teens find the idea of driving scary.

Left unchecked, this fear can lead to panic attacks and worsen already existing anxiety disorders. If this is the case for your teen, it’s worth considering an anxiety therapist.

Being able to express their concerns and fears with a professional can bring relief. Anxiety therapists can also give your teen things to work on to ease their fears, and relaxation tools to deploy when they’re overwhelmed. 

Don’t yell or nitpick

You want to guide your student driver to success, but there’s a fine line between guiding and being overbearing.

You have to remember that this is all new for them. They’re not seasoned drivers yet and are going to make mistakes. They also don’t yet know all the rules of the road, so you’ll have to be alert on their behalf. But if they do make a small mistake, it’s important that you don’t yell or scold them – as hard as it may be to quash that instinct in the moment!

Try to guide them by remaining calm and making sure they know how to correct their mistakes. Ask them if they have any questions and avoid over-criticizing.

For example, if you notice they are not using their turn signal before a turn, calmly suggest and remind them to do so rather than being overly negative, which will only add to their stress and anxiety.

Now is not the time to let your inner back-seat driver come out. Nor is it wise to bring any simmering tension from old rows into the car with you. Try to remain calm and reasonable, even if your teenager gets flustered or emotional. (And yes, we know this is often easier said than done, but do try!)  

Do get car insurance and other necessities

Car insurance is extremely important for new drivers. It’s quite normal for most companies to cover your teen driver under your current insurance policy. However, you should always call your auto insurer to make sure this is the case.

If your current insurance provider is not offering the coverage you would like, or if you’re curious about other options, you can use this iSelect car insurance comparison tool to explore other policies.

Tools like this can help you navigate which policy is best for you while exploring coverage options and giving you quotes. You should also make sure that the car your teen is driving is in good condition. This way, they can focus solely on their driving. 

Do start safe

It may seem obvious, but start your teenager off on quiet back streets or rural roads where they’re unlikely to encounter much traffic. Parking lots when stores are closed are also a good place to get them used to manoeuvring a car.

As they get more comfortable and incident behind the wheel you can scale your way up to busier streets, streets with higher speed limits, or two-lane roads, and parking.

Finally, work towards the expressway and city driving. By slowly building up your teen’s confidence in a slower-paced environment, they can work up to the busier driving as they get more comfortable with the handle of the car and the rules of the road. 

Don’t distract them

Lastly, while you know it’s important that your teenager is always paying attention when behind the wheel it’s just as essential that you do the same when you’re driving.

Studies report that around two thirds of parents teach their teens to drive. And as a parent, your teenager models your behaviour (even if it isn’t always noticeable). So if you’re sitting on your phone texting or flipping through your music library when driving, your teenager might think this is okay to do, too.

If they see you doing it and you’ve never got hurt, they might assume that it’s not dangerous. However, distracted driving is dangerous. And as technology is at every teen’s fingertips, you need to communicate the critical importance of putting the phone down and staying focused on the road at all times. 

Teach your child to be a safe, confident driver

With your patience, direction, and hours of practice, your teenager will be driving confidently in no time. When frustrations arise, remember to use these steps as guidance during this journey, to ensure your future driver’s safety and well-being.