“Show Me the Car Facts: Tips for Teaching Your Teen to Drive”

By Aaron Welch, LMHC, NCC, CSOTS

It’s that time. Yes, THAT time. The moment you have dreaded for years. It is time to teach your teenager how to drive. It is the time for you to step into two tons of glass, steel and plastic and hand the keys to someone who, fairly recently, needed you to tie their shoelaces for them. It is the time for digging your fingers into the car door, pushing a brake pedal that is not there, and using a paper bag to cope with hyperventilating.

Yet someone, somewhere made up a rule that said a person with out-of-control hormones, a still-developing brain, and very poor impulse control should have the privilege of driving.

All kidding aside, teaching teenagers the art of driving can be very anxiety-provoking for many parents. Because of this, learning to drive can also be very anxiety-provoking for many teens as well. That’s not so good because the last person I want to be on the road with is one who lacks confidence and has the anxiety levels of a first-time skydiver.

I see many teens who feel frightened of driving and unprepared to take their test. They are full of exaggerated fears and irrational ideas about how incapable they are to take the road. I’ve even counseled teens who had severe anxiety attacks during their driving test. Where do they get such fears? Unfortunately, it almost always comes from their parents. Often, the anxiety that the parent feels projects itself onto the teenager. This is not a formula for successful drivers training.

So allow me to make some suggestions that might help you, as a parent, as you endeavor to help your teenager take to the road:

Encouragement…Not Anxiety: Make a concerted effort not to overreact to any mistake your teenager makes on the road. I know this is not always easy and sometimes, obviously, you will have to react strongly. But if you don’t have to because of safety, refrain from doing so. Your teenager already feels a huge amount of pressure and anxiety as it is. Adding parental anxiety to the picture is going to make for an insecure and fearful young driver. Instead, actively look for things they are doing well. Even if it’s as small as, “hey, I liked the way you checked your mirrors” or “you’re really doing well” contribute to them feeling more at ease. When they do make mistakes talk to them calmly about what happened and how they could have done it differently. There is a good chance they already know they erred. Make driver’s training a time of mentoring and bonding, not a time that always digresses into yelling, crying, and the slamming of doors.

Lead…Don’t Lecture: Try to stop yourself from long, fact-filled lecture before you leave the house. Your teen will forget a lot of it once they get into the car and, again, it adds pressure. Instead, you might give them one or two pre-driving trips that are easy to remember. Then, offer tips as they are driving. That way they can get the feel of what you’re talking about and see it for themselves. Nothing can replace actual driving when it comes to understanding and confidence.

Teaching a teen to drive doesn’t have to be a nightmare for either of you. Prepare yourself mentally and emotionally, remember you want them to succeed, and have fun with it.


Aaron Welch is a licensed mental health counselor, nationally certified counselor and certified sex offender treatment specialist. He strives to fight for the hearts of his clients and empower them to build a legacy that impacts the world. He is part of a team of experts at “The Lifeworks Group, Inc”. For more information about Aaron or Lifeworks, please visit www.lifeworksgroup.org or call us at 407-647-7005.

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