It’s a plot device often used in movies: the independent teenager who absolutely cannot wait to turn 16, learn to drive, pass the license exam, get a car, and officially Be An Adult. Meanwhile, the parents in these stories are often apprehensive about their teen learning to drive, and thus the main conflict occurs: when will the parents accept that their child is growing up?
As a parent, you might actually be excited for your teen to learn to drive. But you’re not the only one who gets to go against expectations; your teen may not be at all eager to learn to drive. Movies and TV shows didn’t prepare you for this! Here are some tips to help you encourage your reluctant teen to get behind the wheel.
Understand Why They Don’t Want to Drive
Before you can help your teen overcome the mental roadblock that prevents them from wanting to drive, you have to understand exactly what’s going on in their minds. Usually there is some kind of fear at work: fear of getting into an accident, fear of getting pulled over by the police, fear of hurting themselves or others, etc. If your teen has been in an accident before or knows someone who was seriously injured in a wreck, the fear of driving may be particularly high.
Other times, teens don’t want to drive because they don’t feel ready to grow up. They know that driving means being more responsible and independent than they are right now, and for some teens, that isn’t desirable. Try to have an honest, non-judgmental conversation with your teen about why they don’t want to drive.
Promote the Safety and Perks of Driving
Once you know what your teen is worried about, you can attempt to dissipate those fears. Remind them of all the safety features of cars: the seatbelt and airbags can protect them from injury like never before, good tires can prevent hydroplaning, etc. Talk about how car accidents are relatively rare and tend to happen because of inebriated or distracted drivers, and how staying alert and adopting a defensive driving style can go a long way toward avoiding accidents.
Also explain some of the other perks of driving: being able to hang out with friends even if you or your partner are busy, avoiding the school bus, going out to get snacks or food at any time, etc. If your teen is sad about growing up, try not to mention how driving can make it easier to have a job or to run other errands; some teens might see these as additional perks, however.
Give Plenty of Preparation and Support
Finally, be prepared to go at your teen’s pace, but do try to schedule regular driving sessions. Look up practice driving tests, and consider enrolling your teen in a formal driving school. Sometimes teens tend to be braver around strangers, as they don’t want to seem silly.
By the time your teen graduates from high school, driving will have become a necessity. Try to prepare him or her as much as possible in the meantime, even if it means spending a month driving around the block to start with!