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As we kickoff the 2020s, think back to the start of the last decade, when your teen was nowhere near ready to handle the responsibilities of driving.
At five or six years old, there probably wasn’t much your child could handle without you. Little by little, that changed and now, 10 years later, your teen is (hopefully) becoming more independent.
Now, picture your teen another decade in the future. By that time, your son or daughter may be totally self-sufficient, with his or her own house, vehicle and maybe even a family, and your driving lessons will have helped your teen get there.
Here are some of the hidden lessons your teen can learn from the driver’s seat and some tips to help you drive the points home.
When you teach your teen how to merge into traffic or slow for a changing light, you’re really teaching him or her how to make smart decisions. After all, your teen could just merge without looking or run the light and expect others to get out of the way (we’ve all been around drivers like this and wondered what went wrong in their driving education). The more time you spend practicing with your teen, however, the better chance you have of getting the message across.
When you talk honestly about the dangers of impaired driving, for example, you’re communicating the importance of weighing the risks and thinking through the consequences before making a smart decision. As your teen gains experience making tough decisions, he or she can apply this skill to great success in other situations off the road.
Once your teen gets onto the road, he or she will learn that it’s impossible to get anywhere without working with others. To get safely from point A to point B, drivers have to deal with other drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists. What you can teach your teen is that it’s much easier – and safer – to drive when you’re a team player.
Ask your teen how it feels when another driver lets him or her in, for example, versus how it feels to be cut off in traffic and encourage your new driver to embrace this empathy on and off the road. Sometimes that will mean making concessions, which is an essential skill for your teen to learn in traffic, work and life. It’s not always easy to let another driver (or argument) go, but in the long run it often works out better for everyone.
This is where patience comes in handy. Patience is a key to success in almost everything and the road is the perfect place to practice it. As your teen will learn, there’s nothing quite as frustrating as sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, but there’s also little you can do to improve it aside from being patient.
This lesson, that there’s no use getting upset if there’s nothing else to be done, can do wonders for your teen. And while we don’t want to encourage you to purposefully get into a traffic jam just to show this to your teen, it can be learned – and put to good use – in plenty of other scenarios.
Driving lessons may not seem as crucial to your teen’s future success as a college degree or the right job, but they can have ripple effects in ways you don’t expect. So view every trip as an opportunity to teach your teen something important and make sure the messages stick. Ten years from now, your teen will be thankful you put in the extra effort.
DriveitHOME™ is an initiative of the National Safety Council, designed by and for parents of newly licensed teen drivers. DriveitHOME™ offers free resources parents can use to help their teen build experience to become safer drivers.
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