As I write this, my son is out driving on his own for the first time. I am pretty much calm enough to write down a few ideas about teaching kids to drive. Forgive me if there are typos!
- Let the most relaxed parent do most of the teaching. (Not the white-knuckled dashboard-thumping, imaginary-brake-slamming one.)
- Put 'em through the ringer. Mountain roads, ice, snow, rain, dark of night. (Hey, that sounds like the post office motto, doesn't it?) Let them experience the extremes for the first time while you are with them and can offer guidance. Take them to a big parking lot in a snowstorm and let them learn how the car handles in adverse conditions.
- Communicating faith and trust in your teen's abilities will be far more helpful than projecting your fears by issuing warnings and dire predictions. Which voice do you want them to hear inside their heads when you aren't there? The one that shrieks, "Oh no!" or the one that says "Okay, I know you can figure out what to do here."
- Notice what they do well and point it out very specifically. "Nice job making that turn tight enough so you ended up in the right lane." "Glad you looked both ways and noticed that guy coming on his bike!"
- Make your expectations crystal clear, as well as the consequences for any violations. Cell phones? Radio? Passengers? Destinations? Speeding? Write it all down, go over it, and have your teen sign it before you hand over the keys for independent driving.
- Reiterate your "call anytime and I'll come pick you up anywhere no questions asked" policy. It still applies, even after they are driving on their own. The teen brain is not at 100% reliability yet. Offer them a buffer that will keep one impulsive decision from dropping a whole lotta dominos.
- And my most recent idea, spawned just about the time I heard the garage door go down: Petition your teen's guardian angels for extra protection! I dunno, I figure it sure can't hurt.