I’ve always loved driving and can’t handle being without a car, so I was excited when my oldest daughter Kitty turned 17 and could finally get on the road. I couldn’t wait for her to gain her independence, and of course, I am looking forward to the reduced reliance on Mum’s Taxi Service!
It’s a big step, so we prepared in advance with a scheme that provides off-road lessons for sixteen-year-olds in a local park and ride. It was great to see her carefully manoeuvring a car in such a safe environment.
I then had to find a driving instructor. Obviously, it’s important to choose the right one, so I looked for the ADI accreditation and then asked for recommendations from friends with older kids. Many instructors had long waiting lists and I found it’s good to start looking well in advance.
The lessons began and Kitty seemed pleased with how they were going, but we knew that that one hour a week wasn’t going to be enough: we were going to have to get out for extra practice ourselves. I waited until she’d had five or six lessons before plucking up courage and then, with Marmalade Learner Driver Insurance in place, we started our quest.
I’ve never been a good passenger and, much as I trust Kitty to be careful, I have to say it’s been a stressful experience. Without dual controls, you feel totally powerless. I try my best to be calm, to let Kitty get on with the driving and not to panic, but however well I do my knuckles are white and my foot is jammed firmly to the floor. It’s the parent’s curse of constantly imagining all the worse things that can happen and feeling powerless to do anything about them.
Anyway, we are two months in now, incident free so far, and making really good progress. My knuckles are no longer quite so white and it’s been ages (well days) since I’ve grabbed the wheel, or forced the handbrake on. So here are my tips for serene parent/learner driving sessions. I’m no expert – but this is simply what I have found is working in the private practice sessions for us:
- I spoke to my daughter’s driving instructor first, to find out if she was ready to go out with a parent and also what they thought we should work on together
- We only go out when we’re both awake and relaxed: it’s quite energy sapping for us both so we save our sessions for the weekends.
- Building confidence in each other was key, so we started out off the road. We needed to be confident. Me in Kitty’s capabilities, and her in my ability to advise and not panic. We found a car park that was empty on weekends and where we could start off practising gear changes, junctions and parking manoeuvres, which then gave us the confidence to go out onto the road
- Planning the route: think about tricky junctions or where hill starts might be needed, which roads are quiet or busy, where there are narrow lanes or tight turns; it’s easy to forget the challenges of roads you’ve driven a lot yourself
- I found out what was in the test as it has changed recently and there are new manoeuvres that we can practise together
- If a session isn’t going well then we either try something different or end it. An off day is just an off day and there’s no benefit in pushing ahead if it’s making you both miserable
- And finally, I have to KEEP CALM! I try to remember that Kitty is trying her hardest and needs quiet support, not a distraction. Most young drivers need help building their confidence, and as the parent, that’s what we are there for
So ease your grip on the door handle, try not to scream, and relax that leg. We taught them to walk, to ride a bike and to climb a tree. I guess this is just the next step on the journey.
Taking your child driving is definitely an anxious experience for most parents! Want to know how Kitty feels the private practice is going? Keep your eyes peeled for her next blog!
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