Learning to drive is a right of passage for teens, but teaching a child how to drive can be a nerve-racking experience for parents and guardians. It takes preparations from both parties- instructor and instructee to get to a calm, comfortable place, so the actual driving lessons can take place. Here are some tips to try out before you allow your teen to practice behind the wheel.
Start in your driveway, or in a parking space. Before you even think about putting the keys in the ignition and turning the car on, keep the car turned off and in park, and allow your teen to sit in the driver' seat. Go through the basic steps of what to do as a driver, when you first get into a car.
Have your teen put their seat belt on and adjust it to a comfortable position. Next, have them adjust the seat and headrest, as well as the steering wheel position, if needed. Next, show your teen to to check and adjust the side and rear view mirrors. Have them practice looking in the mirrors, out the windows, and over their shoulders. Explain what a blind spot is, and how/how often to check them.
Make sure your teen knows how everything in the car works. Start with the turn signals, and the windshield wipers, as your teen will be using these features the most while driving. Make sure they know how to use their turn signals by practicing turning them on and off, and show them the different speeds of the wiper blades, how to clean the windshield with wiper fluid, etc. Make sure they know to lock the doors as soon as they are safely in the vehicle.
Go over how to heat and cool the interior of the vehicle with your teen, and make sure they know how to find the defroster, and explain how and why they may need to use it. Plan on keeping the radio off during driving lessons, but it's a good idea to make sure the driver knows how to turn the radio off/on, and it may be a good idea to pre-program their favorite stations, so all they need to do is press a button to hear their preferred music. Plan on having a chat about the dangers of distracted driving with your teen.
Go over the speeds on the transmission with the soon-to-be new driver. Have them place their hand on the gear shift, so they can get a feel for it. If you are teaching them how to drive a manual transmission, they will need to get used to keeping one hand on the gear shift, anyway. Explain the different gears and what they mean, and don't forget to show them how to use the parking brake.
Point out the gas pedal and the brake pedal. Have the teen gently press their foot down on each one for several minutes, so they can get a feel for each pedal. Not all pedals feel the same, and some are much more sensitive than others.
After you feel good about how comfortable your teen is with sitting in the passenger seat, wait a couple of days, and invite them to sit in the passenger seat once more. Keep a checklist handy, and ask your teen to go through the steps of what to do after they get into the driver's seat, before they would be setting off on a dive. Ask them to show you how the turn signals, wipers, heat/air/defroster work, how to adjust the mirrors, etc.
Once you and your teen feel comfortable, you'll know they are ready to take the lessons to the next level- practicing safe driving!
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