A client asked me about their teenage daughter having her third car accident. They wanted to know how as a parent they might have an influence on guiding the child to better outcomes. Here’s my response:
You could force her to study safe driving techniques before allowing her to have a car again. You could scold her and take away her driving privileges altogether. You could send her to a driving school and make her pay for it out of her own money. You could make her pay for any increases in insurance premiums you incur. Or, you could take her out for ice cream and show her you love and accept her.
When your daughter calls you in the early moments after the accident, she is reaching out to one of the few people on the planet that can offer her total acceptance, and without any judgment. The biggest thing here is not that your daughter learns something in this moment, but actually that you as the parent have a tremendous opportunity for growth yourself. You are given an amazing opportunity to show your daughter your love and compassion. These opportunities are rare, so don’t miss it by focusing on the physical side of things… the damage to the car or the cost in terms of money. If you handle this well, you will have really lovely memories to share of this event.
I believe that she is well aware that she screwed up, that she needs to focus more when driving, and that there are certain costs associated with having accidents. These concepts are best discussed when she asks and brings it up at a later date.
I think what she would like to know in this moment more than anything else is that you love her, you accept her, and that she can feel safe in coming to you and sharing with you what is going on in her life, regardless of the intimacy or the embarrassment of it. Think about it from the reverse perspective… we all desire to have someone to go to share our most intimate issues and fears and hopes. We desire to be seen, listened to, accepted, and loved. If our parent can fulfill this role without any judgment, it is really ideal.
You have a chance to build tremendous trust and love with your daughter in this moment, so go hug her, love her, laugh with her, and take her out for ice cream!
Rick Schaefer, M.D. is known as the Happiness Coach. He is the creator of Guilt-Free Coaching, and is the author of Extreme Thought Makeover™… 37 Days to Maximum Life! He speaks throughout the U.S. and has a following in more than 50 countries. To learn more or to work with Dr. Rick directly, call 414-573-8880 or go to http://www.rickschaefermd.com