This article was featured in the Spring 2013 MASK Magazine
Teaching our children to drive is one of those last life skills that we impart to them before they really begin to experience young adulthood and freedom. It can be a stressful time for parents, but it is also stressful for the teenager. The stress on the teen is only exacerbated when there are parents that are separated or divorced and on completely different pages when it comes to the subject of their teenager driving. We see it time and time again, and the one who suffers the most is the teen. The stress on the teenager shows up in many different forms. Some are very angry, despondent or withdrawn, others are defiant and will use the differences between parents to make choices that are not always in their best interest. Unfortunately, it has a significant impact on their ability to learn driving skills and more importantly safety and responsibility while behind the wheel of a car.
This edition is all about blended families, the effects of divorce on children and working towards a united front for the children. Divorce is difficult for everyone involved especially the children. When it comes to a decision about something as critical as driving it is so important to come together with a joint plan that will support the young driver. I’m sure, if you’re separated or divorced, you have heard it many times, put your differences aside for the sake of the children. I GET that in many cases it is easier said than done, but it is critical on decisions that will affect their well-being. Driving is one of those decisions. Here are some tips for developing a joint plan:
- Determine when your teen is ready to take on the responsibility of driving Not all 16 year olds are created equal. Is your teen responsible? Do they need to be told what to do all of the time? Are their grades good? Do they make good decisions?
- Are you going to provide them quality driver training? Not every driving school is created equal. Agree on what you are looking for in a school and do your research. Visit the school. Learn about what they have to offer, their philosophy, curriculum and evaluation methods. Make a decision on what is best for your child, not what is most convenient or the easiest and cheapest. Remember this is an investment in your child’s life.
- Determine what your rules are going to be regarding: preparing to drive – how many practice hours will you require before you will allow them to have a license? What specific skills and behaviors will they need to demonstrate? Outline the rules and responsibilities and the consequences for not following the rules before your teen becomes licensed and most important be prepared to enforce the consequences. Rules with no follow-through are useless or do no good.
- Agree on the steps to getting a permit and eventually a license. Don’t undermine each other and most of all don’t undermine your teenager. I have seen it too often where one parent has the attitude of “oh it’s no big deal, I just want them to get their license so I don’t have to drive them around anymore,” and the other parent is trying very hard to provide their teen with good training and instill a sense of responsibility in the teen. Don’t let your teenager use you to get what they want, when it really isn’t in their best interest. A license is a big responsibility. Don’t drive with them if they do not have their learners permit, it is against the law, it sends the message to your teenager that the laws don’t apply to them, and it puts you and your teen at great risk. Put your differences aside and recognize this is your child’s life you are messing with, don’t make decisions you will regret later.