Bethlehem Press

Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Family Project: Teen drivers a concern

Friday, January 4, 2019 by CAROLE GORNEY Special to The Press in Focus

Q. My 16-year-old daughter does not have a driver’s license, but some of her friends do. She asks repeatedly for permission to get into cars with her friends who have drivers’ licenses, but are inexperienced drivers. How many ways can I say, “No?” When, or under what circumstances, should I say, “Yes?”

The panel first talked about how to deal with the daughter’s repeated requests to go driving in vehicles with friends, then switched to ways to make the experience safer when the mother eventually has to say, “Yes.”

“You’ve said ‘No’ enough times that saying ‘You can’t do this’ isn’t going to be useful,” panelist Mike Daniels said. “Rather than getting into an argument, simply say, ‘Asked and answered.’”

Panelist Kristy Bernard said it was clear that the mother was not going to let her daughter in a vehicle with anyone under 18, so make that a rule. “She should then tell her daughter not to bother to ask,” Bernard said.

Having a conversation with the daughter, and giving her an explanation of why she can’t ride with friends was suggested by panelist Denise Continenza. “The mother could explain that the daughter’s friends need practice driving before she can ride with them,” said Continenza, suggesting the mother say, “‘We want you to be safe.’”

“Teenagers will continue to test boundaries,” panelist Wanda Mercado-Arroyo said, “so patience is the number one requirement.”

At some point, the parent is going to have to say “Yes” panelist Chad Stefanyak observed. “When this happens, it should fit in with the needs of the family.“ He gave as examples: if the daughter gets a job or needs to get to school activities or functions, and there are no responsible adults available to take her.

“In this case,” Stefanyak continued, “I would want to meet with the parents of the daughter’s driver friends to talk about ground rules.”

If the daughter is allowed to ride with friends, Bernard recommended that the parent talk about what to do if something happens that makes her daughter uncomfortable, such as drinking alcohol, texting or speeding.

Part of the conversation should be about just how assertive the daughter would be in such uncomfortable situations, panelist Pam Wallace said.

Bernard added that parents should emphasize that their children are not going to get in trouble if they call for help when something happens that they don’t like. “Getting in trouble is not the issue. If you need help, we are there for you,” Bernard said, by way of example.

This week’s team of parenting experts are: Pam Wallace, Program Coordinator, Project Child, a program of Valley Youth House; Mike Daniels, LCSW, Psychotherapist, CTS; Wanda Mercado-Arroyo, educator and former school administrator; Chad Stefanyak, school counselor; Kristy Bernard, Northampton County CYF program specialist and training coordinator, and Denise Continenza, extension educator, Penn State Extension.

Have a question? Email: projectchild@projectchildlv.org. The Family Project is a collaboration of the Lehigh Valley Press Focus section and Valley Youth House’s Project Child. The Times News, Inc., and affiliates (Lehigh Valley Press) do not endorse or recommend any medical products, processes, or services or provide medical advice. The views of the columnist and column do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Lehigh Valley Press. The article content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician, or other qualified health-provider, with questions you may have.