What one mom wants you to know about stressing less when your teen takes the wheel.

As a mother to three boys, I was nervous about teaching them to take the wheel.

When my boys were small, I was obsessively careful and perpetually worried as they approached each developmental milestone. When they learned to walk, I watched carefully and tried not to let them fall. When they started school, I worried that they wouldn’t make friends right away. When they started playing sports, I spent a lot of time hoping they wouldn’t get hurt.

When they were little, it never occurred to me that we’d spend a better part of the teenage years teaching and worrying about each of them as they became new drivers.


But one after the other, they turned 16, got their permits, and looked to me to help teach them how to become responsible drivers.

My first baby is now a licensed driver!

A post shared by Tina Plantamura (@teenah_p) on

Today, my oldest son is 20 years old and has been driving for three years. My middle son, 18, has been a licensed driver for almost 16 months. and in less than a year our “baby,” now 15, will have his driver’s permit.

And while I’m not through this process of teaching them all to drive just yet, the good news is that with each one, it got easier. Not only did they learn to drive safely, but I also learned some important lessons about how to make the process less stressful for both of us. I know that these lessons are bound to help me with my youngest when the time comes to teach him to drive too. They might even be helpful for other parents too.

Here are five things I learned from the experience of teaching my kids to drive:

1.  Don’t worry if it takes awhile.

In the beginning, it took my sons longer to have the confidence to do things that seasoned drivers don’t even think about. It took longer for them to accelerate to the appropriate speed or to make that left turn or parallel park.

It’s a lot like when they first started walking: each took their time and had different methods of keeping their balance. Behind the wheel, it’s the same. I now know that each child will have different apprehensions and challenges, and that time and patience (and practice on safe, quiet roads) will help a new driver build confidence.

Photo by Alejandro Salinas via iStock

2. Encourage more than discourage.

Positive reinforcement goes a long way with a new driver. Rather than constantly saying “watch out!” or audibly gasping while he’s behind the wheel and I’m in the passenger’s seat, I’m make a conscious effort to tell him what he was doing right. Telling him what he did wrong can be done in a constructive way too.

3. Let others guide them.

Friends, siblings, and cousins can be great resources. Talking about their experiences resonates in a certain way that a parental voice doesn’t. Young people often receive advice from peers and siblings better.

4. Remember that all of us were new drivers once.

Most of us managed just fine during those first few years while our parents cringed in the passenger’s seat or worried while watching through the window at home.

New drivers can become great drivers when parents and other mentors are caring and confident. When kids grow up and get ready to take the wheel, I now know I need to show them more confidence than fear.

In the same way I patiently waited for my sons to sound out words as they learned to read and ride their bikes without training wheels, I need to allow them to go at their own pace in getting comfortable behind the wheel.

The author's three sons.

5. Trust that they'll find their way ... with a little guidance.

Just like his brothers before him, I will remember that no matter how hard it is at first, my "baby" is going to learn to be good, responsible driver in no time. In a few years, all the worrying is going to be behind me, and I'm sure he'll be ready to drive me everywhere.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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