Now that exams are over, a lot of our teens will be embracing a new sense of freedom and learning to drive, a coming of age event that can be exhilarating but also equally terrifying for some of our more anxious youth (and their parents).
Laws can vary from state to state but all teens will need to log a minimum number of supervised hours, with a fully licensed supervisor. Licensed supervisors can include those outside of the immediate family like a family friend or neighbour. These people may not always recognise the signs of stress in your teen, so, show them this article and share any other insights you may have with them.
For our teens with disabilities, states like Victoria dictate that “all drivers and people hoping to learn to drive are required by law to notify VicRoads Medical Review of any serious, permanent or long term illness, disability, medical condition or injury that may affect their fitness to drive”. Please discuss any concerns you may have with your GP and follow up with your states licensing department.
Below are my top tips for stress management for our teens learning to drive. These can be used prior to, in between and during a lesson or test itself. There are also some signs of stress that our driving supervisors can look out for.
Tips for managing stress prior to a driving lesson or test:
- Get a good night’s sleep.
- Eat a healthy breakfast (allow enough time for proper digestion before your appointment)
- Stay off Social Media. Don’t tell your whole network that you are going for a driving test. Choose a couple of close friends or family that you know will give you the support and encouragement you need and lean on them.
- Do something that helps you relax like meditation or exercise.
- Use Emergency Essence from Australian Bush Flower Essences. These oral drops have a calming effect on your nervous system dissipating fear and panic, providing comfort and reassurance.
- Restrict caffeine and sugary drinks. Stay away from energy drinks like Red Bull and V and NO alcohol.
- Make a list of everything you need to take with you eg: sunglasses and license.
- Make sure you allow time before your lesson or test to use the toilet.
- Don’t be late.
The most obvious tip for managing stress before a driving test is to practise. Practise does not always make perfect, but it does go a long way in helping you feel more confident and less stressed. Brush up on those road rules and get out in that car. Practise in a variety of different conditions and times of day. (You are allowed to do more than the minimum number of supervised hours for your state).
Tips for managing stress during a driving lesson or test:
- Think positively. (You are ready for this).
- Reframe negative thinking. Change “I am gonna fail this soooo badly” to “I have got this”.
- As you enter the car take 5 deep slow breaths. Inhale through the nose and breathe into your belly, exhale through the mouth. Take nice deep slow breaths. This will help to prevent a panic attack but, if you are actually in the throes of a panic attack then do the following. Take a nice deep breath expanding your belly and then hold for 10 seconds, exhale and repeat. If you are unable to bring yourself out of a state of panic, tell your supervisor.
- Tell your instructor/assessor/supervisor that you are nervous.
For the Supervisor:
Sometimes the sheer look of terror on your student’s or child’s face is not always enough to know when they are nervous. Here are some signs to look out for:
- Hair twirling/pulling (yes even though their hands should be on the steering wheel).
- Gripping the steering wheel too tightly.
- Take note of their speech. Stammering, shaky voice, giggling, talking a lot or not at all.
- Look at their nails. Nails that have been bitten down or cuticles that have been picked at are general signs of stress.
- Visible shaking.
- Skin looks hot and clammy.
- Dark circles under the eyes.
- Actually telling you that they are nervous (fancy that!)
To develop an individualised plan based on your teen’s needs, please do not hesitate to contact me.
For some more generalised stress management strategies for our teens, please see the article “Top 9 Stress Busters for Kids and Teens”.
© copyright. May not be reproduced without acknowledgement to the author. Written by Kim Norton 15th November, 2023.