The late comedian Erma Bombeck once quipped, “Never lend your car to anyone to whom you have given birth.” As the parent of teenagers, I can relate! Not only do teenagers think they know everything, but they are also very quick to remind their parents of their vast amounts of knowledge.
According to the United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2009 those ages 16 to 20 saw a higher injury rate in comparison to all other demographics. While that might be a statistical nod to the fact that teenagers have worse driving habits, the real fact is that teenagers are just far less experienced than older drivers.
Facing a Parent’s Worst Fears
Recently a teenage friend of my sons’ posted the following status update to Facebook: When my mom finds out that I seriously wrecked her car she’s going to be so mad at me!!! Fortunately the serious accident was just a matter of the teen backing over the family’s mailbox, but her parent was less thrilled about finding out over Facebook than she was about the accident.
When an accident happens, as soon as everyone is safe and accounted for, the first thing the teen should have done was called or texted her mother. There are some things a parent does not want to learn over Facebook and this definitely hovers around the top of that list. This can be solved with a clear understanding of ground rules and a safe driving contract between the parent and teen.
Teens and Accident Recovery
Today’s teens have so many distractions, much more than when I was first learning to drive a few decades ago. In addition to learning road rules and the desire to proudly chauffeur their friends around, they also have electronic gadgets like GPS, iPods, and smartphones with features often built into the vehicle for easier access. Is it any wonder that so many teens are in automobile accidents?
If the worst does happen and your teen is injured in a car accident, there are things you as a parent or guardian can do to help them recover more quickly. Even if they seem fully recovered physically, there could be lasting mental or emotional effects such as visiting the crash site or the anniversary of the accident. Here are a few of the ways, but keep in mind that what works for one teen is no guarantee for all other teenagers.
Give Them Time – Even if your teen seems back up and around physically, healing from emotional trauma takes time. Reassure teens that feelings like shock, denial, grief, guilt, shame, and anxiety are a normal part of the healing process. And if those feelings don’t subside in time, then it’s time to consult your family doctor for further advice.
Stay on Task – Keep up with day-to-day activities and go on as normally as possible in spite of appointments, regardless if they are medical or with the personal injury or dui attorney who is representing you in court over the matter. Also stay on a balanced diet as much as possible as the healing process allows.
Give Them Space – Sometimes in our attempt to show how much we care, parents can overwhelm teens and make them feel smothered. Some teens feel more comfortable speaking to a friend, family member, family doctor, or even clergy member.
Lay off the Blame – While wrecking the family car (or any car, really) is serious business, your teen doesn’t need the stress of a guilt trip while facing a physical or emotional recovery process. Besides, someday they’ll have teenagers of their own. Wait until then to tell them that you know exactly what they’re going through.
Seeking Professional Help
Although an accident lasts just a few seconds, it can take weeks, months, or even years for the psychological effects to subside. If symptoms of emotional trauma persist for more than a few weeks, school work begins to suffer, or your teen is obviously avoiding things that might trigger an emotional response about the accident then it’s time to seek professional help.
No two people recover from an accident in the same way, or at the same rate of speed. Even though teens seem to bounce back quicker than adults when it comes to physical injuries, they need time to recover psychologically at their own pace. The longer that they put off dealing with their emotions, the longer the effects will linger.