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     16. Your teen is legally allowed to drive a car. You already have to deal with your child’s evolving personality and now getting he or she is getting a license! However, a license means added responsibility combined with a sense of freedom. Some teens (and parents) might event feel that a license means the teen gets their own car.
     Giving a teenager a car might seem like a mandatory rite of passage for most parents. Teens with their own cars are able to have their first taste of independence as a young adult. But that taste of independence can easily take your child down a slippery slope. Once a teenager has a car, they also have another storage unit that is out of the eyesight of their parents. The car can become a storage place for drugs and it also facilitates the acquisition of drugs. Your son and daughter might tell you that they are going to meet up with their friends to review for tomorrow’s test when in reality they are going to someone’s basement to get high.
     While a car is an important stepping stone and it is definitely a sign of trust, parents should not turn a blind eye to their teenager’s behavior. Set rules for your child. It might be your teen’s car, but he or she still has to respect your curfews and you should be allowed to use their car whenever you want. Better yet, don’t ask to use their car. Instead, ask last minute so your teen doesn’t have time to hide any contraband items.
     Teens can legally purchase items to hide drugs in plain view in their bedrooms. Most parents are in and out of their teen’s bedroom during the days and evenings so it’s easy for parents to keep an eye on what their child is keeping in their rooms. Now imagine the car as a second bedroom or closet that your child can also drive around! Scary thought.
     If you plan on giving your teen a car, it’s IMPERATIVE that you set specific rules. As the parent, you should have a spare key and access to the car at all times. You can also teach your teenager responsibility by having him pick up his siblings from extracurricular events. You should also set a strict curfew and territorial boundaries. Tell your child that he or she will lose car privileges if they do not comply with the rules that you set.

     A car is a privilege, not a rite, and it should be treated that way. 
Inspirations for Youth and Families is a teen substance abuse treatment center located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Call (888) 757-6237 to learn more about our programs for teenagers ages 13 to 17 years old.
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