Teaching your teen to drive is one of the most difficult things you'll do with him or her, not to mention one of the scariest. We've put together seven tips to help you get a handle on the process - and your nerves.
1. Understand your state's laws
Learning to drive is different in every state, so the first thing to do is to understand your local laws. Some states allow a teen to get their learner's permit as early as 15 and a half, while others will make your teen wait a little longer. Most states will require your son or daughter to drive for a set number of hours with you, or another qualified driver, who will sign off on every hour completed.
2. Talk to your teen
Before your child ever sits down behind the wheel of a car, it is important to talk about the risks and responsibilities involved in driving a car, stresses the Center for Disease Control (CDC). You may feel that your teen already knows what's involved in operating a vehicle - he or she almost certainly feels this way - but without taking the time to go over everything, you won't know for sure. This is also a good time to talk about the personal ground rules that you will have around the use of your car, like how often they can drive it and if they'll need to re-fill the gas tank. And as always, don't forget to talk about the dangers of drinking and driving.
3. Consider driver's education
Not every state requires that your teen complete a driver's education program to get his or her license, but these programs have been proven to reduce risk on the road. Additionally, in states that do not require driver's education, these programs may aid your teen in getting cheap car insurance. Because teens are more likely to be involved in an accident than experienced drivers, car insurance companies charge some of the highest rates for young driver's insurance.
4. Plan ahead
Once you're ready to start driving with your teen, plan out their first few driving experiences. Decide where they're going to drive and for how long. If you get in the car with your teen and have nothing in mind, you may find that you're pushing him or her into the deep end of driving before he or she is really ready. It helps to start slowly, so that your teen can learn the basics of handling a large vehicle and build confidence while doing so. Try driving in a large, empty parking lot before moving up to quiet streets.
5. Coach your teen
While it might be easier to point out everything your teen is doing wrong on the road, don't forget to point out their successes as well. Are they accelerating slowly? Leaving a good amount of space between them and the car in front of them? If you bark out commands or yell at your teen as he or she tries to drive, you'll only increase both of your stress levels. Instead, take things slowly, give them positive reinforcement, and act like a coach, not a drill sergeant.
6. Stay fully aware
Being aware of your surroundings is a necessary driving skill, but it is not something that comes naturally. While your teen is learning to be conscious of their vehicle and their surroundings, the responsibility falls on you to keep everyone safe. Being in the passenger seat doesn't mean you can stop paying attention.
7. Set a good example
One of the most important elements of teaching your teen to drive is setting a good example when you're driving. Your child looks to you for how to behave behind the wheel, especially during the learning process. Be patient with your teen, set a good example when you're driving, and you two will have a great experience.