The Family Project: driver’s license
Q. My son will be getting his driver’s license this summer. I know other parents have lived through this, but I am terribly anxious. What can I do for my own peace of mind? Is there anything to do to increase his consciousness of the responsibility he will have, and how dangerous this really is?
The discussion began with panelist Mike Daniels’ observation that “children go through many milestones in their lives, but none cause more anxiety than their getting a license to drive.”
He added that “Kids start learning to drive between the ages of 10 and 13, because that is when they start paying attention to
what their parents do behind the wheel.”
One approach suggested by panelist Chad Stefanyak was to sit down with the son, and in a conversation about driving, discuss the need to have rules. “Ask the son to make a list of what those rules should be. That will help get better buy-in from the son. He may even come up with rules that are stricter than those his parents would consider.” The rules should then become part of a family discussion, Stefanyak said.
Some of the topics for rules to be established that should be included in the discussion, according to the panelists, are cell phones and texting, the allowable number of youths in the car, driving speed, and drinking alcohol or taking drugs before or while driving.
Consequences also need to be considered, according to the panelists, such as what happens if the son has an accident, and what he needs to do. If he gets a traffic ticket, who is going to pay for it? What will happen to his, or your, auto insurance policy rates if he has an accident, and how will that affect his future driving?
Panelist Pam Wallace noted that it is important for young drivers to be aware that they have to be concerned not only about their own driving, but also that of others: “They need to pay attention all the time.”
A drivers’ education course was suggested by panelist Denise Continenza, although she said it is usually no longer available as part of high-school curriculum.
A suggestion from Wallace was for the parent and the son to take a defensive driving class together, and then discuss what they both learned from it.
Daniels emphasized the necessity of making the son aware of just how dangerous driving can be. “That’s the conversation you have every time you are in the car. A 16-year old isn’t even close to understanding how to approach driving, so he needs to be made aware of the consequences and responsibility of driving.”
This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, Program Coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Denise Continenza, Extension Educator, Food, Families and Health, Penn State Extension; Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist, CTS; Erin Stalsitz, casework supervisor, Lehigh County Children and Youth, and Chad Stefanyak, School Counselor.
Have a question? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child.