What To Do Once Your Teen Is Enrolled In Driver’s Ed

It’s a bit of a bittersweet moment when you decide it’s time to enroll your teen in driver’s ed. On one hand, you’re as excited as they are—this means you’ll have more time to accomplish the things you need to get done, and it’s easy to see how happy your kid is to be taking such an adult step. On the other hand, you’re also a little sad and scared. After all, this is your baby growing up! Now they’re taking driver’s ed, next they’ll be independent and adhering to their own schedule, and soon enough they’ll be out of the house.

Okay, first of all: slow down. Yes, it’s a bit frightening to think of your child behind the wheel of a car, but it’s also important to develop independence and self-reliance. but you should want to raise a fully functioning adult. And that’s someone who can drive him or herself around and operate a vehicle safely. Enrolling your child in an online driver’s education course is a way of giving them life skills that can help them lead more productive lives. It’s actually a good thing to enroll your child in driver’s ed because it means you’re giving them the tools to succeed in life.

Even if they’re learning from an online driving school, they should also learn from you. There are also a few extra things you can do to ensure their safety and ability as drivers.

Be a Role Model

Actions always speak louder than words – and this is true, especially when your child is learning a new skill. Teenagers are at that point in their lives when they’re slowly becoming their own person – if your actions misalign with what you’re trying to teach them, it’ll cause some confusion from their point of view. 

They may end up questioning why you do certain things or, a worse scenario is they take your bad habits as bible truth and follow those instead of what’s in their course. The whole “do as I say and not as I do” method of teaching doesn’t really work well with teens. They’ve reached an age where they start to question their parents and other adults and are understanding their own autonomy. If you’re a particularly aggressive driver or you only occasionally wear your seatbelt, you can expect some of those same behaviors in your kids.

This might mean it’s time for you to revisit the DMV’s website or even a driving manual to refresh yourself on the laws in your state and safe driving practices. You could even take it a step further and enroll in a defensive driver course at the same time your teen is taking their course to show how important it is to make getting behind the wheel seriously (and reap the added benefit of a potentially lower insurance premium).

Additionally, whenever you’re driving, make a note of the small things you do that you know you really shouldn’t. For example, it’s incredibly tempting to do rolling stops when you know no cops or other cars are around or you might even tend to go over the speed limit regularly. Try to get rid of your bad habits so that your child won’t pick them up as well.

Help Them With Coursework

A lot of in-person driver’s ed classes are less than thrilling—oftentimes they’re taught by high school teachers who aren’t exactly excited to be filling up an hour or two of their day with teaching the course. This can mean your teen is a bit bored and more concerned about just passing the quizzes and tests and not really absorbing the information. Online driver’s ed courses can be a little more interesting but it doesn’t mean you can’t be involved in the learning process.

Your child belongs to a different generation, however, and may have learning preferences like you. If you want to help them with their lessons, you may have to take a different approach. Here are a couple of techniques that work better for Generation Z:

Gamify knowledge checks. Although there are quizzes at the end chapters to serve as reviewers, you can take it a notch higher by using games to help them evaluate what they’ve learned. You can use traditional gaming formats such as trivia pursuit or jeopardy and incorporate driving education concepts. If you want to maximize technology, you can use apps such as Quizlet.

Story-tell traffic situations. No one knows how difficult driving can be in the beginning better than you – after all, you’ve been there before. Share your experiences and turn them into learning opportunities. Instead of telling your tale from beginning to end, pose it as a possible situation they may encounter and ask what they would do.

Be a coach, not a teacher. Involving them in the learning process – and members of Generation Z love collaborating – is a great idea. Make sure you can listen and acknowledge their responses, especially if their chosen course of action is different from what you would have done. The goal is not to automatically judge their decisions as right or wrong but ask them about the reason behind the direction they chose.

Allow them to ask questions. Encourage their curiosity about the driving experience, but be ready to expound on your answers. There are times when they’ll get into the topic and seem like a bottomless pit of questions – although this may be tiring, it’s a good thing. You’d want them asking you questions up front rather than silently wondering about things. 

Help them out by discussing the coursework with them, answering questions, and helping them study. Again, this not only ensures that they’re a better, more informed driver, but it shows them how invested you are in having them stay safe.

If you’re looking for ways to get involved in the course with them, try:

• Flashcards in order to review information or prepare for a test.

• Reading through the lessons and quizzing them orally.

• Asking for recaps of the day’s lesson.

• Offering to answer what questions they have about driving.

• Incorporating what they’re learning into your drives with them.

• Asking what they need help with in preparing for quizzes.

Set The Time Aside To Drive With Them

Even if you sign your teen up for an online driver’s ed class, they still need many hours of behind-the-wheel instruction. That’s where you come in. Of course, you’re busy and you might not see this as your first priority, but remember how excited your child is to finally learn to drive. If a few weeks go by and you never sit in the passenger seat while they get experience behind the wheel, they’ll quickly think that it’s simply not important to you.

New drivers need lots of instruction and practice driving in all types of weather situations and times of the day. Morning commutes, evening thunderstorms, rush hour, highways, city streets, long stretches of uninhabited roads, winding back roads—the more experience you can give them, the better. After all, wouldn’t you rather them experience these situations when you’re able to help and guide them? If your teen is in a traditional, in-person class they will get a few hours with the teacher, but it’s always helpful for you as a parent to be involved. If your child is taking an online driver’s ed course, then it’s entirely up to you to ensure they’ve got the experience they need.

To ensure you set the time aside to drive with your teen, it’s helpful to write the times down in the calendar. It’s easy to let things slide and say you’ll ride with them whenever you have the time, but setting specific dates and times in the calendar will once again show them how committed you are to helping them drive well. It will also be a way for you to hold yourself accountable and make sure you stick to the schedule.

Have Honest Conversations

So you’re feeling a little hesitant? A little scared? Let your kid know! The best thing you can do right now is be upfront about your concerns. Honest conversations can feel a little frightening and vulnerable, but they will ultimately end with you feeling much more relaxed and able to trust your teen.

Manage their expectations by letting them know what you are and aren’t comfortable with when they’re using your car. If you do get to observe them behind the wheel, give feedback – but make sure you deliver it constructively.

If there are good points you’d like to acknowledge, reinforce the behavior by doing the following:

  • Specify the actual behavior you’d want them to repeat. Avoid general statements like “you did a good job!” 
  • Explain the effect of that particular behavior. Teens learn the value of their actions if they understand the bigger picture.
  • Commend the action.

Conversely, if you observe behaviors you’d like to correct, nip it in the bud by following these steps:

  • Don’t start with statements like “you’re so careless”. Remember, you want to correct the behavior, not the whole person. 
  • Cite the specific behavior you want them to change.
  • Explain the consequence (or potential effects) of what they did.
  • Ask what they can do differently the next time they’re in a similar situation. 

And most importantly, tell them that you love them and their safety is what’s most important to you. They might shrug it off like teenagers sometimes do, but it will be something they truly appreciate in the end.