Since your children were born, you've been their No. 1 teacher. That doesn't change when it comes to driving. Don't sell yourself short by focusing only on the basics like steering, parking and controlling the car. You can help keep your teens safer (and give yourself peace of mind) when you concentrate on developing judgment skills needed to avoid accidents.
Making left turns into oncoming traffic, merging on and off highways and judging gaps in traffic are all good examples. They're also more challenging – and the parent-child dynamic during driving lessons is a challenge on its own. Here are some teaching tips to keep the peace:
Stay calm. Prepare yourself for learning on both sides. For teens, learning to drive safely and in control is the goal. For parents, being able to calmly help teens through mistakes will help the learning process.
Plan a lesson each time you go out with your teen. Discuss the day's goals before you leave the driveway, and practice on both quiet and busy roads and in diverse weather conditions. Be open to coaching through difficult scenarios.
Start slow. Big, empty parking lots make a great place for your teen to master the basics before driving on main roads. And when it comes to adult supervision requirements, all logged hours count.
Lead by example. As both a driver and a coach, eliminate distractions. Turn off your cell phone so you can focus on giving advice and helping your teen understand and obey traffic laws.
Stick to driving. Keep your discussions focused on how to spot potential hazards, or on "what would you do" for different situations. Talking about how terrible your day was, report cards or weekend plans can wait until the car is parked.
Don't criticize. Maintain a normal speaking voice and offer specific feedback. Teens and parents should use "I" statements to describe how they feel. Example: "You're driving too fast again" can be replaced with, "I'm concerned when you drive above the speed limit that it will become a habit." And, "You're always yelling at me" can become, "I feel stressed when your raise your voice."
When it comes to hazard avoidance and judgment, there's no substitute for practice. Only time behind the wheel gives teens the experience they need to scan and react to different situations. And your love, support and guidance also can become lasting memories from the lessons.