Sending Your New Teen Driver on Errands Will Help Them Learn Adulting Skills

Teen drivers.

Just those two little words can send your blood pressure soaring!

I’ve already taught three sons how to drive (and still have one more!) and there were moments I was convinced that we were either going to die in an accident, or I was simply going to die in the passenger seat from a heart attack brought on by sheer terror.

new teen driver
Teens learn more than deriving skills when they are running errands for you. (Pexels: Element 5 Digital)

Teen Drivers Can Share Some the Burden

But after those first tense months of teaching a teen to drive comes a well-deserved reward for your efforts, because you’ll finally have someone else in the household who can share some of the taxi-ing burdens that you’ve dutifully covered for years. 

Before you know it, you’ll be sending your new teen driver to pick up younger siblings from sports practices and other activities, and even take over school carpool (if your state allows them to have more than one minor in the car with them). Your confidence in their driving skills combined with  more successful trips on their part, will only increase the amount of driving you let them do, thus releasing you from hours behind the wheel in carpool hell.

Teens Can Learn Adulting Skills When They Run Errands for You

But there is something else that you should be taking advantage of when you have an independent teen driver that you may be overlooking, and it has nothing to do with driving kids to and fro, and everything to do with learning those important “adulting soft skills” that our young adults are sorely lacking.

What I’m referring to is having your teen driver take on day-to-day errand running for you, especially if it’s the kind of task that involves face-to-face interactions with adults. This may sound ridiculous, and of course teenagers should already be able to do this, but remember they have grown up in a world where the majority of daily interactions is done solely on an app or computer, and rarely (and sadly) does it involve social interaction.

They order food from kiosks, not humans and they order products from stores, walk in and open a locker to pick up said item, having never seen or spoken to a person. They use their phone apps, email, and automated customer service options to do almost everything. All those tasks that they’ve successfully managed to accomplish without face-to-face interactions means that when they get to college,  they lack even the basic skills of how to approach an adult from whom they need assistance.

Don’t believe me? How many times have you read on a college parent message board, “My kid emailed the professor but never heard back,” only to be asked “Did they visit them during office hours or talk with them before or after class?” To which the answer is always “No.”

Honestly, I don’t blame those kids, because I’d be nervous and hesitant to approach a professor if I was unaccustomed to talking about my needs and wants with a stranger having only done so previously by email. But had those kids been forced (for lack of a better word) to speak with adults they don’t know more often during the pre- college years, think of how much better prepared they would be.

5 Errands Where Teen Drivers Can Practice Adulting Skills

1. Once they can drive, they can go to the dentist (and if they’re 18, the pediatrician), by themselves for cleanings and well-visits. Tell them you need a printout of what they had done and what the insurance covered. That will force them to talk to receptionist and ask for this.

2. When possible, give them cash for picking up groceries and other things. Having cash means they will need to make eye contact with an actual human cashier, and not just silently swipe a card and walk out.

3. Send them to the DMV to renew the car’s license tag and registration. Yes you can do this through the mail, but send them anyway.

4. When sending them for groceries, add things to your list that require them to speak with someone at the store, like you want a certain cut of meat that requires talking to someone in the meat department or deli, or you need a package from the bakery broken up.

5. Need something shipped or an item you bought returned to a store? They can do this! No shipping from home or buying stamps online-send them to the old fashioned post office.

These five things should give you an idea of where I’m going with these independent tasks, and I’m sure once you start thinking about it, you’ll be able to find more that are suited to your family’s needs. You can also begin to think about what kind of obstacles they may face during their first year away at college, and see if you can get them practicing those now, like scheduling a doctor’s appointment for themselves, or refilling a prescription on their own.

Think of teen drivers as not just driving, but having a set of wheels that are also the perfect gateway to loads of learning opportunities in the real world.

You Will Also Enjoy:

I Hire Young People and Here’s How They Can be Prepared for the Workplace

Grown and Flown the book – bestselling guide for parents of teens.

About Melissa Fenton

Melissa Fenton is a freelance writer and adjunct librarian at Pasco-Hernando State College. Find her writing all over the internet, but her work mostly on the dinner table. Find her on Facebook 
and on twitter at @melissarunsaway

Don't miss out!
Want more like this? Get updates straight to your inbox.