Teaching teens to drive is a harrowing experience for parents in general. If you didn’t think they were growing up fast before, just wait until you’re white-knuckling the armrest or dash board as your kid tries to remember which pedal is the accelerator and which is the brake. Funny enough, the hardest lessons don’t even involve moving or maneuvering through traffic. The far more difficult task in many cases is teaching your teen drivers how to park the car. Of course, it’s not too difficult to get into and out of diagonal slots, so that’s an ideal place to start. But perpendicular spaces can be a challenge, especially with a large car (or a small lot). And parallel parking provides the pièce de résistance of your anxiety-laden parking extravaganza, especially if you happen to have a hard time parallel parking yourself (as many adults do). So here are just a few things to keep in mind when teaching your teens this necessary skill, which they will need to master in order to pass the driving test.
The first thing you can do is bone up on the parallel parking maneuver. When you were learning you likely had to follow instructions in the driver’s manual. Nowadays you can simply hop on the internet to peruse tutorials, diagrams, and even videos of this difficult driving task. And you should if you’re going to teach your teens to do it. Of course, they’ll learn the essentials in Driver’s Ed, but since you have to practice with them it’s probably a good idea that you know the basics yourself so that you can correct them. If you don’t remember where your car is supposed to be positioned when you start the maneuver (is it your back door parallel to their rear bumper or your back bumper parallel to their back door when you start turning the wheel?) it’s time for a little refresher course.
Now comes the fun part: actually teaching your teen to park. A good place to start is with a relatively empty street with little traffic. Wide lanes couldn’t hurt, either, in case somebody needs to get around you during your practice session. Next you should look for cars that have a lot of room behind them so that your teens have plenty of margin for error as they try to learn the dimension of the car relative to other vehicles and the sidewalk. As your training progresses and they gain confidence in their abilities you can choose smaller spots for them to practice on. But right in the beginning it’s probably best to get them familiar with the motions before you throw them in the deep end by making them park on streets with few spots and heavy traffic.
Of course, you might be tempted to simply buy a vehicle that offers a self-parking feature. But this does your teen driver no favors. What if they have to pick up a rental car at LAX or BWI airport parking when they travel? What will they do then? Teaching your teens to operate a moving vehicle is no easy task, and parallel parking in particular can challenge even the best of drivers. But with persistence and patience you can help your teens to master this difficult maneuver, pass the test, and become the safe and responsible drivers you want them to be.