“Dad, can you take me to the game? I need to be there in ten minutes.”
“Mom, can you drop me off at Maddie’s across town at 5pm and pick me up at 7:30?”
“I need a ride to the store to grab a poster board for my project due tomorrow.”
School assignments, social gatherings, sports, and after school activities all seem to be more abundant as your teen gets older. With the number of places your teen needs to be and fewer teens acquiring their first license under age eighteen, how are students getting to and from their extracurricular events? That responsibility has fallen squarely in the laps of moms and dads.
If constantly serving as a taxi isn’t appealing, you have an opportunity to transition the responsibility of getting to and from events to your teen. With each new task you give to your budding adult, you want to make sure they hear your heart and know the why behind this decision. It is important to make it clear that they are not an inconvenience to you. However, in their current way of thinking, they are relying on you to take them to and fro on a whim with little to no planning. This is not how life works. If they want you to take them somewhere, they need to ask respectfully, offer a way to clarify (note on the counter, family online calendar or app, weekly printed calendar on the fridge), and have a plan to get a ride in the other direction so you only have to do one trip. When you help them understand that until they have purchased their own car, they will have plenty of chances to work out their own transportation and you are just helping them get ahead of the curve by starting now.
After you have explained the “why,” it is necessary to help them talk through the “how.” Amazingly, this is not obvious to all teens. Because they have always been driven to and from everything, they think that is just the way it is. Asking them to come up with ways they could get to a friend’s house and how they would work out each is a good indicator of their thinking. Some kids will mention walking or riding a bike. Some may think of the city bus, Uber or Lyft, or getting a ride with a friend. All of these are viable options, and helping your teen work through some scenarios based on the places they go most often will open their eyes to the possibilities. What if instead of coming home from school for fifteen minutes to grab their practice equipment, they took it to school and got a ride home with the student who lives within walking distance to the practice field? Instead of you driving them to the arena for a big concert (which will take you twice as long as normal based on the traffic) they arranged a meeting spot for everyone to get dropped off at a public transportation stop and they took the bus or train together to the event? When we put the responsibility on them to figure it out, they realize a little inconvenience on their part can save tons of time for others driving and can possibly be fun.
It is important to go over family rules and guidelines about who they are and are not allowed to ride with. If your state has a graduated license program, be familiar with it, and let your teen know what the law is and how they are held accountable. They can only ride with a friend if that friend has the legal ability to drive other teens. This is a good time to cover drinking and driving and to offer that if your teen is ever in a situation where they need a ride to avoid riding with someone who is under the influence, you would willingly come pick them up with no further consequences. This can be a life-saving conversation.
Teaching your teen to work out their own transportation is a life skill that will serve them well. If our goal is to work ourselves out of a job, this is just one of many steps in that process. Each responsibility we shift from our plate to theirs brings them one step closer to becoming a well-functioning adult.