Teaching Transportation Skills

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March 13, 2012 by middleearthnj

There is more to life than the basic subjects taught in school. We want our teens to know reading, math, and history, but they need to know other basics skills that are not taught fully in our schools. Preparing our teens for their independence is part of a parent’s responsibility. Sometimes it seems so much easier to simply take care of everything for our children, but we are not doing them any favors.

Some of the important skills needed to survive independently include doing laundry, cleaning, cooking, and budgeting. Another very important skill that our teens need to learn is transportation skills. Always leaving this life skill to parents can lead to the bad habit of never taking the responsibility of being where they need to be and blaming others for being late or not showing up. Teaching transportation skills is an important part of your child’s education that rests squarely with parents.

There is more to life than the basic subjects taught in school. We want our teens to know reading, math, and history, but they need to know other basics – laundry, cleaning, budgeting – to survive in the big world outside. Preparing our teens to take flight into that world is part of the job of a parent, and if we do everything for our children, then we have failed them. Along these lines, it is so easy to simply take care of our children’s transportation needs, but we are not doing them any favors. Always leaving this life skill to parents can lead to the bad habit of never taking the responsibility of being where they need to be and blaming others for being late or not showing up. How can they pursue their big dream in New York City if they don’t know what a subway is, how to read a map, and they can’t drive. Teaching transportation skills is an important part of your child’s education that rests squarely with parents.

Parents need to make sure their teen knows the following about transportation:

Driving. Your child needs to learn how to drive a car, but that extends beyond the steering wheel. You need to explain how to obtain and renew a driver’s license (including the process, forms and fees). Your child should have a complete understanding of the costs associated with car ownership, including insurance (what is required, how you get it, and the costs), routine maintenance, inspection requirements, penalties and consequences, and registration.

Maps. In this technological age, young people may just assume they can get wherever they need to go by following the simple instructions laid out on their GPS, but we all know that doesn’t always work. Your child should have a working knowledge of how to read a map. Start by discussing simple routes, and then gradually make the hypothetical journey more complex. Be sure to show your teen how to use online mapping tools, such as Mapquest.com, which offer written directions as well as maps between any two addresses. When your child understands how to read a map, have him or her plan a short trip or two. It can also be helpful to keep a physical state map in their car, for emergencies.

Public Transportation. Many youth have never had to use public transportation because their parents have driven them wherever they needed to go. But after college, many young adults land jobs in large cities and suddenly they are confronted with buses or subways. Parents need to take the time to teach their child how to decipher bus and/or train schedules or subway maps. They should also know how to hail or call for a cab. If you live in a town with a local bus route or subway, review the schedule together, pointing out the departure and arrival columns, the weekday versus weekend schedules, and any other pertinent information. If you don’t, use the Internet to check schedules in Washington DC or New York City and consider hypothetical trips.

Taking a Trip. Your child needs to know how to take a trip by a plane, train or ship. Parents should teach their children how to purchase a ticket for these modes of transportation and explain what other details need to be considered. For example, explain when and how to get a passport, the difficulties involved with airport security, and how to determine luggage requirements. The next step is a field trip to the airport or train station. Explain the process of checking in, how to stay safe (for example, don’t leave your bags unattended and who you can ask for help), and how to read Departure and Arrival boards.

Estimating Travel Time and Costs. The first vacation a young adult plans is an eye-opener. They want to visit a destination and determine that the hotel will cost a certain amount. They have not considered how much gas it will cost to get them there. Or perhaps they are flying and having considered how they will get from the airport to the hotel. Thinking through all of the details of a trip is not easy and must be taught. Additionally, estimating travel times takes a little luck as many factors can cause delays, including traffic jams and mass transit problems. Encouraging your child to think through these issues will better prepare them.

Being Prepared. If your teen carries a cell phone, suggest he or she program frequently called phone numbers (e.g., parents, friends, emergency roadside assistance) into his phone’s directory. If your child gets lost or in an emergency situation, he or she may be nervous, so being able to call for assistance at the touch of a button will be a tremendous help.

Transportation skills are learned best when taught by experience. The very best opportunity a parent can offer their child is to plan a trip for the family. This will boost their confidence and provide them with a great experience to lean on in their adulthood.

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