Simple Tips to Ensure Your Child is Seated Safely

As parents, we all know intellectually that securely strapping children into car seats is the prudent, safe, and responsible thing to do. If one is to believe television commercials and family television shows, a family drive with children in car seats is a joyful enterprise characterized by happy children and smiling parents. For real parents, however, the experience is often less enjoyable than the fictional ideal. Travelling with a child in a car seat can be a frustrating test of patience and endurance, with children squirming, complaining, or crying about their apparent captivity. A car trip becomes a necessary evil; a means to an end. Only arrival at the destination brings relief.

Some parents become so frustrated by attempts to seat a child properly in a car seat that they stop using car seats at all, allowing the child to sit unsecured in a back seat, or worse, a front seat. This may reduce the conflict and stress between parent and child, but it often places the parent outside the law, and most certainly places the child at high risk of injury or death. Child safety is paramount. Car seats must be properly used regardless of the conflicts encountered.

Those of my children that are of an age requiring travel in car seats do so quietly, for the most part. This favorable situation did not simply happen; it required a plan, discipline, predictable routine, and a mutual understanding between parent and child. We found the following steps to be of primary importance.

1. Establish an expected routine.

Don’t delay in introducing the child to a car seat. Start when they are babies. As a new parent, it’s tempting to hold your baby and cuddle it while on a road trip. The baby is comforted and you feel fulfilled. The truth is, however, that the baby is not safe. Introduce the baby into an appropriate approved car seat on its very first car trip. The baby will quickly adapt to it as the normal behavior. In a very short time, the baby will feel secure in the car seat, and expect to be placed in it.

2. Educate the child before using a new seat.

As a child gets older, a larger car seat will be required. The child who has become secure and comfortable with the original seat may become anxious about the change. Show the child a picture of the new car seat. The company that makes the seat will undoubtedly have a picture of the seat with a child in it. Let the child become familiar with it before you place it in the car. It won’t take long for the child to take ownership of the new seat, perhaps accepting it as an indication of how “big” he or she has become.

3. Provide toys to keep the child entertained and occupied.

A bored child is an unhappy child. Make sure toys are of a size and design that will permit them to be used while in the car seat. DVD players and a selection of cartoons might help. Include the child in the social interactions with others on the drive.

4. Allow time for rest stops.

Regardless of how well you train, plan, and provide distractions, the child will eventually become overtired or bored, and will require personal attention and comforting. Sometimes, an active child needs to run about and burn off excess energy. When the child is old enough to understand, talk to him or her. Let the child know that you are tired too, and that the trip will soon be over. It’s often helpful to offer a future reward, perhaps an ice cream cone or sweet treat down the road.

Amy Brown, a stay-at-home mom, gave up her own career to take care of her two babies and her husband. Now she is an editor of Livesnet, a site offering baby gear reviews and tips on problems parents encounter in daily life. She’s surely willing to share her own experience and tips. Please visit Livesnet and read her recent reviews on Britax Roundabout Convertible Car Seat and Britax Frontier 85 Car Seat.

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