Worried about Your Teenage Driver?Jan 25, 2022
Getting a driver's license is a huge deal to most teenagers. Driving is a critical stepping stone toward independence and self-reliance. While the outer goal is to get their license and begin enjoying the freedom driving brings, the inner journey toward responsibility should be the priority for us as parents.
Driving provides a great illustration of the shift from control to empowerment. Once the car is in Drive and your teenager leaves the driveway, you have completely lost your ability to control what they do. The good news is that your teenager will take with them the principles, values, and beliefs—the mindset—that you have taught them. And if you have been intentional about teaching a love-based mindset, they will be empowered to be drive responsibly.
One of the challenges teenage drivers face is peer pressure that causes them to make bad decisions. In the same way that friends can “pressure” your teen into drinking on a Saturday night, friends can challenge your teen to speed or go through the yellow light that is really red. Another form of peer pressure that today’s teens face is the pressure of social media and texting—even while they’re driving. They feel obligated to respond immediately whenever there is a message or post.
Peer pressure is all about being accepted. It is about not being left out. Not being isolated or alone. The most effective way to counter the inevitable peer pressure your teen will face is to deepen the connection your teenager has with you and your family. Think of it this way: If you teen feels deeply connected to you, their fear of not belonging and not being accepted is greatly reduced. Therefore, while they will enjoy relationships with their friends, they will not desperately crave their acceptance. If a friend challenges them to drag race, their judgment will not be clouded by the fear of being rejected by this friend. They know that they can always go home to your family’s open arms.
Within our community, we share a variety of ways for building connections. Here is an idea for you to try. During a typical day you will go through a few regular transitions with your teenager. For example: dropping them off at school or saying goodbye in the mornings as they leave, when they walk into the house after school, dropping them off or picking them up after a practice, sitting down to dinner, or saying good night. My recommendation is to be very intentional about your mindset during one or more of these transitions each day.
Let’s say that your son or daughter gets home from school every day at 4:10. Set an alarm on your phone for 4:05 each day. When the alarm goes off, stop whatever you are doing. Take a few deep breaths and state your intention for the next 10 or 15 minutes with your teenager. You could say to yourself:
My intention is to welcome Nathan home with love. I will be present and available to him as a compassionate listener. The biggest gift I can give to him over the next 10 minutes is a safe place to unwind and reconnect with his home.
Taking a few minutes before the transition to shift your mindset can be very powerful, and if you consistently do this for a couple of weeks it will become a habit.
A strong connection to you and your home provides a line of defense against the inevitable peer pressure you teenager will face while driving and facing all the other challenges they face.
Family Enrichment Coach