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Scary Parenting Moments: Preparing Your Teen for the Driving Test

25 Feb 2015 – 11:24 AM EST

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It’s a scary moment in every parent’s life–the moment your child becomes old enough to drive. Putting a teen in the driver’s seat while you buckle up in the passenger seat is the ultimate moment of letting go as a parent. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to ease the process and get your teen ready for the driving test. I’m going to share my secret tools for getting your kid ready for the road.

Start Them Young

What I’m about to tell you might have you rolling your eyes, but it works. Go buy your toddler one of those battery-operated cars. That’s right. I’m going to advocate that you fork over a couple hundred dollars so that your three-year-old can drive a Jeep or Barbie car on the sidewalk.

Now what I’m about to tell you next, the authorities will frown deeply over. I started my kids driving at twelve. Yes, that’s right. Age twelve. You see, they started on empty country roads and parking lots. I’m talking about situations where no other cars were involved. By the time they received their driver’s permit, they had some driving time logged.

Quiz ‘Em

Another tip for preparing your kid for the driving test–quiz them when you’re on the road. For example, when you drive by the “Yield” sign, bring up different situations where a driver would have to yield. This will help you get an understanding of just how much your young driver knows. When you come to a stop sign with four other cars at once, ask your child for advice on when you should proceed. When you’re on the highway and a truck is merging off a ramp into your lane, discuss whether you should speed up or slow down to allow the truck to merge. If you do this with many different driving situations, your kid will be a pro by the time the driving test comes around.

If your child is struggling with the written portion of the test, spend some extra time going over the Rules of the Road or hire a tutor to go over the material and practice for the driving test.

Prepare Ahead

One of the areas I wish I had done a better job with my children was to prepare them better for unexpected situations after they passed the driving test and obtained a license. For example, I never discussed what to do if they ran out of gas or encountered an engine fire. In hindsight, I would have made sure there was some cash in the glove compartment for unexpected situations. A well-stocked vehicle complete with emergency items is a must.

Sit Back and Enjoy the Ride

If you’re a Nervous Nellie in the passenger seat, trust me, your kid is going to pick up on those vibes and it will show in their driving. As a parent, you’ve got to be alert but r-e-l-a-x-e-d. Show confidence in your child and they’ll transfer that to their driving. Start your child out driving with the parent who is calm and encouraging. Before you know it, you’ll be tossing the keys to your kid and telling them, “Hey, can you go to the store and pick up some bread?”