5 Tips for Parents of Teens Learning to Drive

If you have an eager teen who is about to get behind the wheel, Mighty Mommy has 5 tips that can help keep you sane and a little less anxiety ridden.

Cheryl Butler
6-minute read
Episode #432

As the mom of eight kids, I can tell you one of my least favorite moments in parenting: teaching them to drive! My sixth child is about to start driver’s education classes later this summer, and if all goes well and he passes his permit test, I’ll be leaving the Department of Motor Vehicles in the passenger seat with my son as my new driver.

With nearly six young drivers under my belt, I have learned to relax a little more (a little, not a lot) and my knuckles don’t even turn white any longer as I cling to the dashboard! If you have an eager teen who is about to get behind the wheel, Mighty Mommy has five tips that can help keep you sane and a little less anxiety ridden.

Tip #1: Assess Readiness 

Just because your child turns 16 does not mean he/she is necessarily ready to drive. There are factors to consider such as maturity, social readiness, and whether or not your child seems overly anxious or seems confident that he/she is ready to get behind the wheel. In my brood of kids, two were not ready to begin driver’s education classes until they were nearly 18. That extra two years made a world of difference because they had time to mature more and get prepared.

Although these two drivers were a bit delayed in getting their licenses, they still had an active role in getting ready because they became co-pilots rather than passengers.  In MetLife’s Teaching Your Teen To Drive, the authors shared some very practical advice for any teen and his parent getting ready to take this big step: “Remember, the road looks very different from the passenger side. Take a ride in the passenger’s seat before experiencing it for the first time with your new driver. This way, you can have a better feel for how the road looks from the passenger’s point of view, and you’ll have one less surprise when your teen takes the wheel. For example, it can be difficult to tell from the passenger seat if the vehicle is centered in its lane if you usually see the road from the driver’s seat.”

Tip #2: Lighten Up

When my oldest child learned to drive, I didn’t exactly instill a “can do” attitude in her the first few times we drove together.  I’m ashamed to admit that instead of feeling good about the fact that she now had her permit I was focused on what might go wrong while she was behind the wheel.  I was certain that every guard rail and curb that we passed would end up inside the car.  I held on to the armrest for dear life.  I’m afraid I just wasn’t very supportive. 

After driving with her a few times, however, I realized she was actually doing a very good job.  She knew the difference between the brake and the gas pedal—what could go wrong?  When your new driver is starting out, it’s best to keep the mood light and focus on praising all the good practices—“Brittany, I like how you always look over your shoulder before changing lanes.” Positive commentary helps build their confidence and make good habits stick.  

See Also:  6 Ways to Handle a Defiant Teen (without yelling)

Tip #3: Practice Off the Road

The first time your teen actually drives the car, start in a safe location like an empty parking lot. Have your teen practice applying gas and brakes, driving straight, turning, and backing up.  We have an industrial park near our home that is usually empty after 5 PM.  All our drivers learned to feel comfortable in the car in this place without having to worry about traffic and other drivers.

It can take several outings to learn how to navigate the car and to figure out how much pressure to apply to the brakes to stop or how far to move the steering wheel to turn so it’s far better to have a safe environment with very little traffic to do so.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.