girl in car

One of the most important (and perhaps scary) tasks of a parent is allowing teens to have their independence. Now that summer is in full swing, parents of teens might often get asked if they can hang out with friends, go to the movies, drive certain places, etc… But what about something a bit bigger than just a night at the movies? Road trips are a popular summer activity, what would you do if your teen has asked if they can go on a road trip with a friend?

It can be a scary idea to let your teen go off on their own. How can you prepare your teen for this kind of responsibility? How can you prepare yourself to let them go?

Start by asking the important questions:

Where would you go?
Who would you go with?
Whose car would you take?
Where would you stop?
How would you pay for the trip?
When would you be back?
What are your goals for this adventure?

Next, you can take a few steps to prepare your teen for being on their own.

Give them more responsibility
The full truth is that you’ll never be fully prepared for letting them go, but you can make yourself more prepared for it by working towards or building up to the independent road trip. You may start by helping them plan a family road trip with you where they are responsible for considering the overall packing list, doing the road ready checks, planning out the lodging and food of the trip, thinking about safety and contingencies in case something happens, and considering a reasonable budget. Your teen will appreciate that you’re giving them more responsibility and have some choice in making the plans. You get the comfort in knowing that you are preparing them for the future.

Make Safety a Top Priority
While we hope that they won’t have to use it, if they are going to be on their own, they need to know what to do if something happens. Some of the preparations should include first aid training, situational awareness, and self-defense. First aid training is frequently offered through community centers or even potentially a program within their schools. You can also check with places like YMCA. This training not only teaches them basic wound care but also teaches them CPR, and sometimes even offers certification which they can use for other activities. The last two are hard to think about, but increasingly necessary for traveling. While community centers and YMCA may offer programs like this, you can also check local martial arts programs, but perhaps the best place to check is your local shooting range or gun shop. They often teach these skills in practical, hands-on ways from those familiar with using it due to backgrounds as officers or military.

Some other tips include:
Making sure they have a plan if they get separated from their group
how to use an ATM discreetly
how to keep their money and personal documents safe,
how to be aware of the people around them.
Meeting and getting to know (or already knowing) everyone who will be in their group
Helping them to establish boundaries and expectations for the trip beforehand
Establishing a buddy system and/or designate someone to do frequent inventories of people in the group
Make sure they know where car manuals and documents are including information for roadside assistance
Teach them to document what they are doing and leaving it in the car. Any time they plan to be away from the car, they leave a note of where they are and what they are doing. A stranded car will eventually have people asking questions, a note in the car directs them where to look in case something happens. For example, “Joe, Dean and I are meeting Jill and Larry at the Handlebar restaurant and will be back at 10 p.m. Jill: 213-555-4378, Larry: 818-555-5675.” The notes are left in the glove compartment of the car.

Brush up on the law. Just about every state and province in North America has rules and regulations that affect young travelers. Some municipalities enforce stringent curfews and have varying definitions of the term “responsible adult.” Nearly every state prohibits underage individuals from driving other youngsters during certain times of the day and night. Further, many states are adopting laws that impose penalties on parents if their children are involved in vehicular accidents. It is critical that parents be aware of the differences in such rules when their children cross state lines. Since most children are protected under their parents’ car insurance umbrella policies, it is important to ensure that these policies will be enforceable if an accident occurs when the parent is not on the trip.

Don’t Forget to Pack Important Items
Packing is one of the most important parts of preparing for a trip. Here’s a shortened list of some of the most important and often overlooked items:
A notebook or designated information place with medical information including health issues, medical prescriptions, special diets and needs, emergency contacts, and basic contact information.
Backups of emergency medical needs like epipens, inhalers, etc
phone charger with both a car and wall adapter,
Basic items like their wallet, driver’s license, bank card, car and health insurance
a pair of sunglasses
an overnight bag with clothes, hygiene, and about $20-$50 in small bills (tip friendly)
safety and automotive supplies

Establish a Communication Plan
Technology allows communication to be established pretty easily through messaging, but the important rule here is for them, to be aware of their situations and to share regular updates. You should work with them to establish a check-in schedule for the entire trip. Some require once a day or others want something like every other day, or even still others just ask every time they change locations. Either way, there should be a clear understanding of how often, when, and what happens when they don’t stay in contact.

Get the Car Serviced
Most importantly is to make sure that the car they are using is in road trip shape. While they should know how to get a tire changed or how to check fluids and how to read the icons that may show up on the vehicle, they should also know the basic maintenance that vehicles need. Some things they should ensure is done is an oil and filter change, tire rotation, and a multipoint inspection including things like tire condition, brakes, windshield wipers, and other fluid checks.

This article was brought to you by Infiniti of Cool Springs, driving your next summer road trip. Infiniti of Cool Springs is located at 211 Comtide Ct., Franklin, TN 37067.