Raising teenagers Teaching your teenagers how to drive January 21 2021
Trudie McConnochie Trudie McConnochie Writer

When your teenager’s learning to drive, your role is about more than just teaching them road skills – it’s also about building confidence. And what you do and say can make all the difference.

Cast your mind back to the first time you sat behind the wheel and turned the ignition key. Can you remember that unsettling combination of nerves and uncertainty about the responsibility you were taking on?

Did you have a parent beside you with an encouraging demeanour, who guided you through the steps of learning to drive in a calm and supportive way? Or were they a little more anxious – hovering their hand nervously over the handbrake, while occasionally raising their voice whenever you made a mistake?

When it comes time for you to work out how to teach your teenager to drive, the approach and attitude you choose to take on can have a huge impact on their progress and resilience.

We asked Leanne Hall, a psychologist who recently taught her daughter to drive, for advice on helping build a teenager’s confidence behind the wheel – by helping them build up their required number of hours, plus gain experience driving in all conditions.

Not surprisingly, Hall says remaining cool-headed is important for any driving instructor – even if you need to fake it. Common blunders made by well-meaning parents or relatives also include being too negative or “picking at every little mistake – focus on the big ones first,” she advises.

Avoid shouting, and don’t assume your teenager knows where they’re going, Hall adds. “Just because they have been a passenger on the same route does not mean they will remember when in the driver’s seat,” she points out.

Hnads on car steering wheel

What to do

As well as communicating practical driving skills, it’s also important for parents to stay up to date with the road rules, because “[they] do change,” Hall points out.

As the nominated driving instructor, you’ll also need to:

  • Give lots of encouragement. “Show them you believe in them,” she says.
  • Give your teenager time to mentally prepare before getting behind the wheel. “Some kids don’t cope well with Mum or Dad springing a lesson on them out of nowhere.”
  • Remain calm. “Gently talk them through specific tasks such as going through a roundabout and parking,” she says.
  • Be patient. “There’s a lot to learn – it takes some people longer than others.”
  • Talk about learning to drive even when your teenager’s not behind the wheel. “Engage in conversation about what they notice on the roads – for example: ‘Did you see what that person just did? What would you have done?’”

Building confidence

Your role as instructor goes beyond just helping your teenage nail safe driving techniques from the front passenger seat. You need to help them build confidence, so they can make good decisions on the road well beyond their practical driving test.

Here are Hall’s tips for building self-assured young drivers:

  • Start small. “Always start with familiar roads before venturing out to the unknown,” Hall says. “Don’t hit the highway or parking lots too soon. Slowly build their skills at a pace they are comfortable with.”
  • Consider using the same car at first, to build familiarity.
  • Be consistent. “Make sure they are getting behind the wheel regularly,” says Hall. “And if they make a big mistake, or have an accident, don’t wait too long before getting them driving again.”
  • Consider booking a few driving lessons with a professional to complement what you’ve taught them. “Kids always listen better to other people they see as experts,” she says.

Learning to prepare for the unexpected

Prangs are always possible – especially when you’re just starting out on the road. But with Bupa Car Insurance, learner drivers are covered for accidents under our Nominated Driver policies, as long as they’re accompanied by a fully licensed driver aged 25 years or over.

So, before you take to teaching your teenager how to drive, check out our range of policies and read our Product Disclosure Statement at bupa.com.au/car-insurance.

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Trudie McConnochie Trudie McConnochie Writer Trudie McConnochie is a Sydney-based journalist who specialises in health, wellbeing and spirituality. Bupa Car Insurance is distributed by Bupa HI Pty Ltd ABN 81 000 057 590 an authorised representative of the issuer, Insurance Australia Limited ABN 11 000 016 722 AFSL 227681, trading as CGU Insurance. Any advice is general only and does not take into account your personal circumstances. Consider the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and Target Market Determination (TMD) to see if these products are right for you.