It’s every teen’s nightmare: Getting in a car wreck and having to tell your parents. As if the accident weren’t bad enough, telling your parents adds another layer of conflict. You don’t want to let them down or risk punishment. However, being mature and honest can help you earn your parent’s trust and resolve the issue in a more timely manner.
Watch our video below to see how some of these scenarios work out, using hones, humble and candid responses.
Here is what is happening in our different approaches:
In Scenario 1, Daisy, our teen driver, is calm, gentle, and straightforward with the details. She prepares her mom for the bad news by telling her first that she has to tell her something she won’t want to hear.
Then, she gives the essential details in a calm, clear manner. This helps her mom to stay calm and reassured as well. By showing responsibility and giving her mom the important information upfront, Daisy’s mom takes those cues and doesn’t respond reactively.
In Scenario 2, Daisy is a little blunter and does not give as many details. Her mom reacts more negatively, but when Daisy tells her she is sorry, she is a little more forgiving since Daisy admitted responsibility.
In Scenario 3, Daisy doesn’t take caution, and her mom reacts. Notice that Daisy doesn’t give details about the accident other than rejecting blame. This causes her mom to believe she is irresponsible since she doesn’t admit any fault, nor does she apologize for the incident. While this is not necessarily a “wrong” way to tell your parents you were in an accident, it isn’t the most practical approach.
Not every teen-parent relationship is the same and these conversations can go a hundred different ways. While we wanted to show the difference in tone and responsibility in the call, there are other factors to consider as well.
Call them on the scene
Your parents will appreciate you calling them as soon as possible. Call the police first if any party is injured, or the cars cannot be removed from the road. Next, call your parents.
Try to stay calm so you don’t escalate the tone of the call, as Daisy did in Scenario 3. If you’re both calm, you can make better decisions and take care of things quicker. Being hysterical will make the situation worse.
Try starting with this: “Mom, I’ve got some bad news.” Just like Daisy did in Scenario 1, starting with this allows your parents to mentally prepare for what you’re about to tell them.
Be as clear as possible
There are a few things your parents will want to know. Firstly, are you OK? Be sure to tell them if you’re hurt. If you’re just sore or shaken up, tell them this and tell them you think you’ll be fine.
Secondly, what happened? Try to explain what caused the accident. It could be as simple as “I lost control of the car,” or “I didn’t react fast enough to (insert other car’s action here).”
They will also want to know the condition of the car. What kind of damage it has (like the front is crunched, or the passenger-side doors are caved in) and how bad it is. This can be helpful if they’re meeting you at the scene, as another way to mentally prepare them for the reality of the crash.
Be prepared for a variety of emotions.
Your parents love you and want you to be safe. So they’re going to be conflicted whether to be mad that you acted unsafe (even if you didn’t mean to) and they’re also going to be happy you’re all right. They may be angry at the other driver. They may be happy you felt comfortable coming to them right away. Whatever the case, telling them is the right thing to do.
Share your location
Your parents may want to come to the scene if you’re close by. Having them there can be reassuring and helpful. Even if you’re embarrassed by the situation, it’s probably best to have them help you. As you saw in all three scenarios, Daisy’s mom is ready to head to the crash scene, and Daisy has sent the location address.
Offer to help with the damages, if possible
After the crash, it’s important to talk about who’s going to be responsible for paying for the damage. Usually, teens don’t have much money to repair the car, especially when they need it to get to work. So, many parents will either pay for it or compromise.
However, if you have an allowance, you could offer to put part of it toward repairs. The same can be done if you have a job. Depending on your income, you might be able to work out a payment plan for you and your parents to divide up the costs.
If you aren’t able to financially help with the cost of repairs, offer to make up for it in another way. You could take on more chores for a certain number of weeks.
Your parents will further trust you for wanting to take responsibility for the damage.
If you were being irresponsible, you may not want to tell your parents, but doing so will make them trust you even more. Recognizing irresponsible behavior and correcting it in the future will help you become a better driver.
Remember, trust goes a long way. Whether you admit it or not, you likely depend on your parents. You can help one another by communicating openly and honestly.
For more teen content visit our In the Front Seat teen driver page.