Helping a Teen Who’s Afraid to Learn to Drive

By Eric Hamilton, Parent Herald July 30, 09:53 am

(Photo : Pexels)

There's the commonly-held idea that teens count down the days until they're able to drive, whether with their learner's permit or with their full driver's license. Getting a license is a rite of passage for many teens, and it's something that they're often more than ready for when the time comes.

Most teens will prepare for their permit test, make sure they get plenty of practice driving time, and when the day comes they can get their license, it's one of the most exciting in their lives to that point.

What happens when that isn't the case, however?

What if your teen is apprehensive or anxious about learning to drive? As a parent, how can you help them handle that?

You want your teen to move forward in life, and depending on where you live in the country, driving may be a big part of that. Driving can help relieve your workload as well if your teen can ultimately drive younger siblings. 

It's also important that teens start driving as early as they legally can because it gives them a period of gradual transition and allows them to gain experience in managed situations. 

The following are some tips you can consider, as a parent, if your teen is afraid to learn to drive. 

Identify Possible Causes

When your teen doesn't want to drive, a big part of helping them is going to come down to understanding why.

Your teen may be reluctant to share why they don't want to drive, or they may not even be aware of the reasons themselves. 

However, speak with your teen in an open, non-judgmental way and figure out what the issue is. You may find that the issue is you. If your teen feels like they don't need a license because you will continue getting them everywhere they need to be, they may not want to go through the effort to get a license. 

You may also find out that your teen is nervous and has negative emotions regarding driving. If that's the case, your approach to helping your teen will be different. 

Consider Therapy

If your teen is having an issue related to a phobia or anxiety, you might want to consider speaking with your teen about therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can work especially well for anxiety and phobias. 

This might be a good approach because if your teen is struggling with anxiety in this one area, they may also be having anxiety in other areas of their life as well. 

When a teen proactively works toward overcoming their anxiety, it's going to give them healthier coping mechanisms throughout their lives. 

Steps You Can Take

Along with talking with your teen and considering therapy, what else can you do as a parent?

First, you want to seriously and honestly evaluate your teen's level of maturity. It may be that your teen is a late bloomer in certain ways, and waiting to start driving might be the smartest thing. 

If your teen's anxiety and not their maturity level is the problem, ask them what they feel is the best approach to deal with the situation.

You can work with your teen very closely and in small, controlled doses to start driving. For example, take small trips around the neighborhood and gradually go longer distances as they feel comfortable. 

As long as your teen is progressing forward, it's okay if they do it at their own pace. 

Along with the actual logistics of learning to drive, help your teen feel more in control of the situation by getting them acquainted with other things that come along with driving.

For example, work on teaching your teen basic car maintenance and what to do if they are in an accident or experience car trouble while they're on the road. By preparing your teen for different situations, they are likely to feel more prepared to take on the task of driving itself. 

A few things not to do as a parent of an anxious driver include forcing your teen to take steps they aren't ready for. There's a difference between encouragement and forcing your teen into something. 

Don't become frustrated when your teen is learning to drive, and don't belittle their fear either because that's going to make the problem worse. 

Try to take it slow and step-by-step. Have a sense of patience and understanding, and your teen is more likely to embrace driving, and all that comes with it. 

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