Updated: May 24
Teenage life is a lot different now than it used to be due to the added struggles in almost every area of their lives. When the student arrives at a driving lesson, they have a lot on their mind. I try to keep this in mind when giving lessons, and parents or guardians who are teaching their teen how to drive should as well. As the coach, it’s important to be patient and help the teen focus so they can stay calm and alert on the road.
Let’s take a look at specific stresses teens go through in order to better understand what they’re dealing with on a daily basis so we are better prepared as parents and coaches to understand and help them become safer drivers.
On any given night, for example, a student has to work on a combination of completing math homework worksheets, revising their english essay, preparing for their science lab, studying for any tests/quizzes coming up, and then finishing other homework from elective courses.
For juniors and seniors, college is a big concern. From taking the impending SAT’s or ACT’s to finishing their college applications and scheduling time to visit potential schools; it’s a lot of pressure for anyone, let alone a teenager.
We also need to consider the continuing impact of COVID on different aspects of teens’ lives, including adapting to virtual learning environments, putting limitations on social life, and adding restrictions for extracurricular activities. It’s natural for these changes to be frustrating, which means they can become distracting when trying to focus on yet another lesson during their day.
There is no shortage of posts on social media influencing teenagers’ minds. This can include anything from false body image expectations to constant product promotions or even cyberbullying in the comment sections. All of these aspects of social media can have a negative impact on your teen's mental health and cause valid reasons to be distracted.
In addition to social media, there are other media outlets like video games, tv shows, and movies. If they just got done playing video games or watching an episode of their favorite show, you might need to make some intentional efforts to help them “turn off” the media they were focusing on and instead “turn on” the responsibility of driving.
These platforms can be great avenues for building friendships and staying connected, but they can also have negative effects, as well. Just remember to regularly check-in on your teen about their social media usage and make sure they are handling the content responsibly.
Even if your teen doesn't realize their financial responsibilities prior to getting their permit, odds are reality will begin to sink in during the months leading up to their driver’s test.
Every family situation is different, but your teenager may be responsible for car payments, car insurance, and gas expenses, in addition to extra spending money for hanging out with friends or buying new things. Your teenager may also be choosing to save money for college funds or enter into the workforce to be independent sooner.
Whatever the case for your teen, there’s a high chance they will need to learn to be financially responsible at some point in their mid-teenage years. As they navigate this new area of life, it can likely become something that consumes their thoughts. If you would like more information on how to discuss budgeting and financial planning with your teen, you can read our past blog post here.
When it comes to stressors, relationships can be at the top of the list. A teenager is managing a lot of different relationships at once. From drama within their friendship group or the stress of being in their first dating relationship. Balancing these relationships can be a challenging lesson for teenagers. At home, they might struggle with their sibling dynamic and their relationship with you, too.
This list serves as a reminder for parents of all that is swirling around in your teen's mind at any given moment. It's essential to remain patient with your teen, especially in a high-stress situation such as driving. If you notice your teen is struggling to concentrate while driving, ask them to pull over. Perhaps your teen just needs a few minutes to express what's concerning them. Even if they don't want to talk, it’s important to help them refocus back on the task-at-hand.
Getting frustrated or upset in the car with them is only going to increase this stress and make it all the more difficult for them to improve. Instead, remind them about how driving is a serious responsibility and how critical it is for them to concentrate. Assure them that their other worries are valid, but they can revisit those concerns later. Try calmly asking a few refocusing questions to bring their mind back to driving before getting back on the road.
If you’re looking for more guidance on how to remain calm and patient while teaching your teen to become a responsible driver, check out these additional resources from SDC:
Download A FREE copy of the Safe Driving Coach: Parents Guide, 5 Solutions to Common Teen Driving Mistakes.
Sign up for the Parent’s Survival Guide for New Teen Drivers online course for parents who want to know how to better coach their teens how to drive!
Visit our Blog Page for more teen driving safety blog posts!