Learning any new skill can be intimidating, especially for a young mind. There are many reasons that teenagers are fearful of learning how to drive.
- Not having any experience with driving a car
- Fear of doing something wrong and getting hurt
- Fear of forgetting how to drive in general while behind the wheel
- Fear of not being able to keep up with other drivers on the road
- Fear of making wrong turns or getting lost
- Fear due to past accidents
These are very common and valid fears for a teenager. The parent must remember that while these fears may seem trivial, they are very real and very large to their child.
First Time Drivers
There are children whose parents have allowed them to drive their car around on their property or into their garage. These kids may not have any fears about getting their drivers license because of those experiences.
For the teenager who has never had experience with driving a car, the anxiety over learning can be quite overwhelming.
Consider this; you are getting into a machine that you have no idea how to operate. What you do know is that it can kill you if you make a wrong move.
Sound scary? You bet it does!
They may ask themselves “What if I make a wrong turn? What if I don’t hit my brakes in time?”
There are many what if fears involved for the inexperienced driver but this does not have to stop your teenager from learning to drive and getting that piece of plastic that is a symbol of freedom for teenagers all across America!
What You, As a Parent Can Do To Help
If your teen is fearful of learning how to drive, there are things you can do and things you should not do.
- Allow your teenager to take baby steps
- Help them study for their drivers permit exam
- Take them out during quit drive times to allow them to get used to operating a car and help them feel more comfortable behind the wheel
- Encourage them and help build their confidence
- Enroll them in their schools drivers education program or hire a private driving instructor
- Stop and talk about mistakes
- Force them to learn or to take steps they are not ready for
- Be agitated with them when teaching them how to drive
- Yell at them if they do something incorrect
- Make fun of their fear
- Overload them with instructions. Teach one thing at a time and master it before moving forward
- Have them drive in heavy traffic or in highly populated areas
Helping vs Hurting
The parent who takes time to calmly teach the teenager is the helping parent. Be encouraging and help them to prepare for their permit test.
Allow them to feel scared while still building their confidence in themselves and their ability to master driving. Once they get that permit, take them out driving as often as they wish.
The best places are empty parking lots or quiet, low populated neighborhoods. These types of places can take some of the pressure off of the new driver.
If or when a mistake is made, pull over and talk about it. Help them to see what they did incorrectly using a positive tone.
The parent who screams and yells during driving lessons is the parent who is causing harm. Do not get in the car with your teenager while you are angry or agitated. Any negative energy or feedback will simply reinforce their fears.
Do not put them in heavy traffic and expect them to sink or swim. This could be deadly.
Once again, take baby steps. Giving to much instruction and information too quickly can overload their senses and the end result will be them only taking in half of what you are teaching.
If you find that you are unable to teach your child to drive without feeling stress and anxiety yourself, hire an instructor or enroll them in their schools drivers’ education program.
An unbiased third party can be more professional and will not become angry or irritated by mistakes.
Most of all, do not make fun of your child’s fear of learning how to drive. Teasing and belittling is never an effective way to teach anyone anything.
Some Extra Tips for Success
- Communicate clearly and often
- Be alert at all times
- Stay calm
Communication is key when teaching anything. If you see something that is not right, tell your child in a calm and encouraging way.
Make sure that YOU are alert when going out on the road with your teenager. You are the experienced one and must look out for what they are or are not doing correctly. Stay as calm as possible.
If your teenager sees or feels your anxiety they will be more prone to make mistakes or decide that they would rather not drive at that moment.
If Your Help is not Enough
If you teenager still feels fearful of learning to drive after you have done all that you can do, you may need to look into getting extra help.
You can provide them with books on overcoming driving fear or have them join a peer group that has other teens in it who are afraid of learning to drive.
Another wonderful option is self-help programs such as The Original Driving Fear Program.
Not only can this help them to get over their fears enough to get licensed, but it can also be a continued helping tool as they become experienced drivers.
If the anxiety persists after licensure, have your teenager keep The Driving Fear Program with them in the car so they can take a listen anytime they feel the need.
For a teenager, becoming a licensed driver is a rite of passage. Do not let them miss this important milestone in their lives because of fear!