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Caroline Manzo tackles questions on dating, friendship, and watching your children mature.

on May 23, 2011

Pam from Orange Park, FL: My question is complex. My 21 year old (almost 22 year old) daughter does not drive, nor does she have the ambition to drive. My father is going to buy her a car as he did for my niece, and this has done nothing to motivate her. I am her taxi driver, and it's frustrating for me to say the least. She claims me and my husband's cars are too big to drive. All her friends have tried to help, and she claims she gets panic attacks. I feel like she is just scared. It's very inconvenient as she works full time at different hours, and I am her ride!  We even suggested driver's ed. Help! What can I do to get this kid on the road?

Caroline says: I hear what you're saying Pam, and I sympathize with you. I also get where your daughter is coming from too. As a parent we want nothing more than to see our children thrive, and when they hit a roadblock that doesn't make sense to us, it can be very frustrating. I also can understand what your daughter is going through too. We all have fears. For me it's mice, I can't even look at a photo of one without reacting. Silly, right? To me it's not. It's a legitimate fear that I can't explain.  

I'm wondering what caused this fear in your daughter. Was she ever involved in an accident? Did she see one when she was younger that left an impression on her? Has anyone in your family ever been hurt in one?

If so, then I have a better understanding of her fear. If not, it certainly makes things harder to accept. So let's get down to the nitty gritty of things. She's 22 years old and has turned down the prospect of a brand new car. That says a lot to me. That tells me this is a legitimate fear and should be addressed as such. Next question, has she ever had a panic attack or is she assuming she would have one if she ever got behind the wheel? There's a difference. What driving experience has she had? Did she ever take drivers ed in school? Have you tried private lessons from an accredited driving school? If the answer to most of these questions is yes, then I would suggest that you not push her. Maybe she'll grow out of this fear as she matures, maybe not. Some people are not meant to drive, and your daughter might be one of them. 

This brings us to our next issue. You playing taxi. I get it, we bend over backwards for our kids. Sometimes it's the wrong thing to do. Your daughter is making a conscious decision not to drive. In making that decision, she has to understand that she has to live with the consequences. If your daughter were making strides in conquering her fear of driving and moving forward to correct it, then I would cut her a little slack. I'd bite the bullet and show my support by driving her around until she got her license. However this isn't the case. Now you're becoming an enabler. You obviously can't be her chauffer all her life. It's unfair of her to expect that. If she needs a ride here and there every now and again, fine. To live your life by her schedule is unreasonable and selfish to expect on her part. It's time for your daughter to put her big girl pants on. She either moves forward to try and conquer her fear, or she adjusts her life to deal with it without putting undue stress on friends and family.

I have to stress one very important thought. Driving is a huge responsibility. If you are incapable of acting responsibly behind the wheel, then you shouldn't be driving. If your daughter has a legitimate fear, then I in no way believe she is capable of handling a vehicle on her own at this point. By doing so she is putting her life and the life of others in jeopardy. Hopefully over time she will learn to deal with her fear and ultimately conquer it.