Kid Connection Tip: The Good Part of Student Drivers

Posted June 15, 2015 by jimhigley

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I’ve heard it hundreds of times in my life. Complaints – and words of fear – from parents as they contemplate their son or daughter learning how to drive. And for many, a very real trepidation about sitting in the passenger seat with that same child who – seemingly just a few years ago – was wearing diapers.

I’ve been through the journey three times. And I’m happy to report that I’m still alive. As are they. Sure, I certainly had many white-knuckle moments (welcome to parenting, right?). But I’ve also come to view those “student driver” years as some of the best moments of my parenting journey.

Seriously.

Our state requires that a student driver log in 50 hours of driving time with an adult. 50 hours! Even if that was spread over a year – it’s one hour a week alone with your child! In my book – with a 15 or 16-year old – that’s an opportunity that simply can’t be matched.

For me, it was the perfect scenario for using reverse psychology, as well. So while other parents shared their feelings of fear and anxiety with their own children, I made sure mine heard nothing but positive anticipation.

As each of my children approached the age when they started talking about learning how to drive, I told them in no uncertain terms that I couldn’t wait for them to get behind the wheel. I peppered them with tiny bits of confidence – planting seeds as to the type of driver I knew they would be. I talked about my own driving experience as a teenager (including a fender-bender within two hours of receiving my driver’s license!) and regularly tried to balance out conversations that would give them confidence while still instilling a healthy dose of fear as to the seriousness of driving.

And of course, in my heart, I had minor and occasional panic attacks that I kept to myself.

I also was strategic in our one-on-one driving sessions. I tried to schedule them at a time that I didn’t feel stressed or pre-occupied. They also had  purpose. (My favorite session for each was the day they learned how to merge on and off interstates – which all of my kids mastered on a late-but-still-sunny evening when traffic was light).

My secret trick – for capturing more together time – was to tie drive-time with errand time. So going to the grocery store wasn’t only an opportunity to practice diagonal parking – it was a rare chance for me to stroll the aisles with my teen.

Perhaps the most important aspect of that time in a parent-child relationship is what happens well beyond the driving skills and long after the glow of together-time (for mom and dad) fades. The true golden nugget is the opportunity for a parent to pass a critically important message to their child:

I trust you. I believe in you. And I love seeing you mature and grow.

And the beginning and end of every parenting journey, that’s a message that connects us all.

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This memory is part of a series of stories I’m sharing during the months of May and June – highlighting the importance of connecting with our children. These memories are brought to you by the wonderful folks at Kimberly-Clark who have compensated me for my writing. All opinions are my own. 

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