Letting go of the parental wheel, to help your teen be safer behind the wheel

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One of the biggest hurdles I had to overcome as a parent was learning to let go once my oldest hit those teen years. Of course, any parent will tell you that “letting go” is something we are always doing, but when they become teenagers, and especially when they get their license, letting go is both heart wrenching and more necessary than ever.

Our teens need more opportunity to learn to navigate the world on their own, mistakes and all, without the hand holding and the constant check-ins. But it’s even more important to consider how our concern as parents can actually make it more dangerous for them, especially when they are driving.

There is nothing more nerve-racking than those first few weeks of your teen driving solo. It is incredibly tempting to check-in to see if they are alright, or on the way home, or finally at their final destination. You might even be tempted to ask them to grab something from the store.

But doing so contradicts all the lessons we try to instill in them on not texting while driving – not even reading a text while driving.

It makes you wonder, how many parents break their own rules and in essence contribute to the endangerment of their child’s life and others on the road?

According to a new survey, commissioned by Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions):

  • 50% of the parents surveyed (out of 1,000) have knowingly texted their teen while the teen is driving.
  • Furthermore, 29% of parents expect a response before teens reach their destination.
  • The study also shows that, implicitly, teens think it is more important to respond to an incoming communication from Mom (compared to Dad and even friends), and they are less likely to think this can wait until they’ve stopped driving.

Now, I won’t even try to deny that adjusting to the idea of not checking in on your teen while they are out at night, on the road, in your car, with friends, and all other scenarios, is hard. For me, it caused difficulty in falling asleep. I never go to bed with my phone off or silent, and it is always next to my bed. But over time we all adjusted, and most importantly, we made it a rule to lead by example – in not practicing bad behavior behind the wheel ourselves, but also in not putting them in a situation where they have to break those rules. In addition to practicing what you preach and setting a good example, Liberty Mutual Insurance and SADD also suggest that parents and teens:

  • Use A Discussion Guide: Liberty Mutual and SADD encourage families to use the Teen Driving Contract as both a conversation-starter about safety issues and a customized agreement that lets parents and teens create and uphold driving rules.
  • Be Transparent & Real with Teens: Teens want to be praised for good driving behavior, not just reprimanded for poor decisions. They also want parents to make an extra effort to understand their world and the peer pressures they are under – most likely, parents felt similar pressures growing up as their children do now. Most importantly, it’s important for parents to lead by example.

Try to understand them and have empathy for the new roles they are growing into and the pressures surrounding them. It’s not always easy to do, but it’s so important. It also encourages conversation.

And those are really important, especially as your teen ventures out into the world as a young adult.

For more information, tips, and services visit www.LibertyMutual.com/TeenDriving.

This post is in partnership with Liberty Mutual Insurance. All opinions are my own.

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Carol Cain

Carol is her happiest when on an adventure, either close to home or farther away. She's the mom to three fun boys and wife to a handsome Irish/Scot. She lives in New Jersey with her happy crew, but will always be a girl from Brooklyn. You can read her full profile here.

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