Is your child ready to drive and are you ready for the passenger seat?

Are you both ready?

The inspiration for this post comes from some great tweeting back and  forth with @optimom She, like many other parents Young Drivers connects with, asked when do you know if your child is ready to drive and how do you choose who is the best person to drive with them? I’m paraphrasing here but that was pretty much the gist of these great questions.

Ok parents. Lets breathe a sigh of relief together and help you keep your sanity through this exciting and nerve-wracking time. Moms and dads everywhere can rejoice with these quick guidelines.

Here is the biggie: Is your child ready to drive? How do you know when the time is right?

First and most important sign is: Does your child even want to drive? Just because your child turns the magic age they are legally allowed to get their licence does not mean that the switch gets flipped on to make them want to take on this responsibility. Better not to push them into driving if they are not expressing interest. They should be present (and I mean mentally present here) when learning life saving skills in driver training.

If your child says they want to drive, is it for the right reasons? Do they really feel ready or are they buckling to peer pressure?

Being nervous is natural when it comes to driving but people should not be afraid of it. This may be a red flag someone is not quite ready to get behind the wheel.

Attitude and behaviour are a BIG deciding factor in determining your child’s readiness. Parents know their child the best and everyone is different. Ask yourself: Has my child shown commitment when starting something to see it through? Are they responsible towards tasks in life? Are they constantly missing practice and forgetting to do homework or are they keeping up with what they have to do? The answers to these questions will help answer if your child is ready for the new responsibility of driving.

Now that you have determined whether or not your son or daughter is ready for driving, here is the next big question. Are YOU ready for them to be driving? How do you determine who is the best person to sit in the passenger seat for practice? (rock, papers, scissors does NOT cut it)

First things first. Does the potential co-driver have enough driving experience of their own? This is why graduated licensing programs are in effect in most jurisdictions so that experience is paired with inexperience.

Just like attitude and behaviour are important in determining if your child is ready to drive, they also play a significant role in deciding who is best suited to be your child’s co-driver.

Ask yourself: Who is the most patient in the family? If you and your partner are equally patient and qualified then I would add: Who handles stress better? The person who is patient AND handles stress well has the winning combination. It is important to stay calm in the passenger seat (do not bring a paper bag to breathe into as much as it may be tempting). Avoid outwardly conveying you are anxious because this will only elevate the new driver’s anxieties as well.

The key for parents to remember is that your job is not to teach your child to drive, but to help your child become safe as they practice what their in-car instructor has taught them. Keep the driver focused on what they are doing, keep as calm as possible and enjoy the ride. You’ll both get there!

7 thoughts on “Is your child ready to drive and are you ready for the passenger seat?

  1. Hi, my son has taken a few lessons with Young Drivers & I thought this would help with his anxiety regarding driving but I think he still feels nervous about the whole situation. Not sure how to help with this, as I myself am a BAD passenger. I like to keep control, even don’t let me husband drive when I’m in the car very much. He has taken a few lessons & did not complete the course yet, so we had to inlist him in 2 more lessons. Now I’m thinking maybe we should have waited to get him started. Where we live there is no other means of transportation so it would help us a lot if he did get his license. Is there some way of getting him (and me) to feel more relaxed about the driving situation?

    • Hi Lynn,
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my post. Have you talked with your son’s driving instructor regarding your concerns? As a first step, I think it would be useful to provide this feedback to them. I am sure they could make recommendations for practice and techniques to help make the process smoother. Young Drivers also offers a free CoDriver program for parents of students enrolled in the program. Your local Centre should have more information. I also wrote a post here about how to be a good Co-Driver or tips for the passenger parent that may help set you at ease Keep in mind that everyone learns at a different pace and your son will get there! Like any new skill, driving takes practice and his confidence will grow as he gains more experience.

    • Wanted to add some practicing tips that may help too Lynn – The key is to practice what the new driver has learned to date to re-inforce those skills. If you look in the back of the Young Drivers workbook, you will see what driving skill was covered during that driving lesson. Practice in an area that is appropriate and time of day that is appropriate for that skill. I suggest that instead of one long session shorter session spread out over every other day work better. As a rough guideline, 45 minutes to an hour and a half is about the limit per practice session. Bear in mind that new drivers can become fatigued behind the wheel much sooner than a more experienced driver does….practice requires a lot of conscious energy. Vary what you are practicing. For example – practice some residential turns, then some parking maneuvers, back to the turns, maybe at busier intersections. Mix it up so that it doesn’t become repetitive and boring. If that happens, learning progression stops.

  2. HI my daughter is learning to drive but I feel really nervous when I am in the passenger seat, sometimes I think it is a lot of pressure on her having me there, I would like to win the certificate so somebody with all the experience could teach her how to drive in all the different situations and remain calmed and under control, also with snow and rain…that still makes me very nervous and I am 42! thanks!

Leave a Reply