EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


September 30, 2012

Family Matters: How do I deal with my teen who starts driving?

This is the first time for this. We have three boys, and the oldest is about to go for his driving test. He has had his permit for a while, and we have delayed him as long as we could. The trouble is his distractable nature. He just doesn't always keep his mind on the road and what he is doing. He is a great boy and otherwise does what is expected of him. Anything you can think of we would be grateful.

How often have I heard this one over the years.

Here are some things that have worked, or, at least, made life a bit easier for worried parents.

First, have a serious talk. Let him know this is not a criticism and that you are certain he will try to do the right thing. Then, ask him to appreciate how dangerous inattentiveness in driving can be, even a momentary distraction to change the radio station. Let him know you are going to support him in going for the driving test. This does not mean carte blanche for driving. For that, you are going to ask him to pay some dues.

Second, the "dues" consist of a "post graduate" driver's training. There are driving instructors who will definitely understand your plight. Ask for a series of continuing lessons to evaluate his driving and to instruct him on paying attention to the road.

Third, there are several advanced, defensive driving courses out there for young people. They are excellent. In this area many car dealers contribute to the cost. Call several local dealers to find out the skinny.

Finally, restrict his driving to short journeys. Slowly increase the responsibility and distance. If possible go with him. In the long run he will understand and appreciate what you are doing.

Incidentally, I remember initial road experience with number one son. Most of the time I had my foot on the dashboard!

Dr. Larry Larsen is an Andover psychologist. If you would like to ask a question, or respond to one, you can e-mail Dr. Larsen at lrryllrsn@CS.com.

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