You are ready to go out. Everybody is dressed and packed but the baby or your little toddler won’t let you buckle him in! Car seat struggle is something me and my family know so well. From ever since they were babies, every few weeks, we’d go through it.
We like to travel with young kids quite often and most of the times it is road trips. Here in Saudi Arabia, sadly, we don’t have that strict rules about children being in car seats but I still kept my kids buckled up from birth because we know the dangers so well. Elsewhere when we traveled to the UAE, Canada or the US, it was very important that the children stay in their seats and not distract us.
In the past 11 years, I have learnt a thing or two about children and car seats. One of the most important thing being learning to identify the reason for their behavior before I set out to calm them down.
There is always a reason for children crying.
Our first major experience with our child resisting the car seat came when my third child was 10 months old. We had just returned from our vacation to India.
Lil’ would not sit in her carseat. Never mind the car seat because she would not sit in a car even. She’d be screaming, on the floor, kicking at everything or anybody who was near her. It was scary from the safety point of view too as she was sometimes trying to kick the door also. I tried sitting in the back seat to keep her calm but it was just no use.
Previously, we never had any problems with her. She had been driving in a car seat since birth and when we switched from her infant carseat to the big baby one, we had no surprises. Her big brother took to his, quite comfortably, when he was her age. We didn’t understand what was wrong. I checked all my go to resources online and offline but without much help. I decided to do my own research and experimenting to see what works and what didn’t.
What to do when your Baby Suddenly Hates Car Seats
When your baby is resisting their car seat, there is definitely a reason. Understanding what they are going through can actually help you help them. After you learn why your baby doesn’t like the seat, you can look for ways to calm them down.
Why won’t your baby sit in a Carseat:
Before we force our children to sit in a carseat, we need to evaluate the reason he or she is not getting into one. Here are a couple of reasons that I have found why children put up a fight:
- Confining their freedom of movement. The main reason why children don’t want to get into their seat and belted up is because they have to sit still for so long.
- Boredom: Ofcourse, if you’d sat still, you would be bored too.
- Unable to see the world outside: When you are so little, that even if you strained your neck, all that you see is the top of trees or buildings as your dad takes you cruising, it would be boring.
- Dizziness or sickness: Unable to see the outside world will make them feel like they are sitting in a box and shaken up. Much like on the plane. The airconditioning too, can cause the ears to stuff up and this inturn gives them ear aches and headaches. Little children unable to talk will resist getting in. Those older will tell you that they have a headache.
- Ear Infections: Another reason why children don’t sit in cars is when they have a cold or an ear infection. The movement and the stuffiness caused by the air-conditioning as explained above will cause them more pain. It is always better to take your child to a doctor if they start resisting car trips all of a sudden.
- Not understanding time: This is the main reason why children hate long trips. It is because they cannot tell time and they don’t know how long they have to sit still waiting for their destination.
- Scared: Particularly if it is night. Moving in and around town when it is dark outside and you can’t see what is happening outside can be very scary.
How do I keep my baby calm in the car seat:
- Make sure that they are not sick: Is the reason why your child does not want to get into the car seat, illness? Has she a cold or an ear infection? Even when they do get in their seats and in the course of your journey they start crying or trying to get out, check if they are feeling unwell.
- Are they hungry or sleepy: Most children will throw a tantrum when they are hungry or tired. Make sure you aren’t traveling with a hungry and sleepy child.
- Have playmates, toys and lovies to hold and snacks for the trip: You can create a car only set of toys that are safe to travel with and interesting for your child. You can also attach a toy bag within reach of your child. Alternatively, before every trip you can get your child to choose a toy, a cloth book, a snack and a drink (in a sippy) to take along. The extra attention will give him control and choice in what he is allowed to do.
- Mirrors: Attaching a mirror to the side of your seat or the window helps the child see his own reflection and the reflection of the outside world giving him the opportunity to see the outside world. You can also attach a mirror in front of a rear facing infant seat to allow the child to see you.
- Sunshields and sunshades: Always protect your child from the sun by letting him wear proper clothing and a sunscreen appropriate for his skin. Also, attach a removable sunshades to prevent the direct glare on to your child.
- Tell them time and mark Landmarks with them: Right at the beginning of your trip, tell your time, how long it will take you to get to your destination and what landmarks you will cross. Count out the landmarks with them. You can also tell them how many steps it will take for your family to reach back home. For example: Step 1, go to the cleaners and pick up clothes. Step 2, refill at the gas station. Step 3, go to the mall. Step 4, pick up big brother and step 5, get home . It becomes a sort of game and they will enjoy knowing what all is on schedule.
- Talk, cheer entertain. Keep a conversation going, telling them what the outside looks like. Sing to them, play games like I spy, Color X and Knock Knock games. Do whatever you can (without distracting the driver ofcourse) to keep the child entertained.
- Be consistent: Never let your child drive without a belt or in front with you. If you do it once, they will expect you to let them do it again. Always make sure they are strapped safely in their seats before driving. If the take the belt off, stop the car and refuse to drive unless they are in their seat again.
- Show examples of good behaviour. If you can, show them an example of an elder brother, friend or a favourite Lovey in a car seat of their own, it will be easier for them to accept how normal it is to drive sitting in a seat. Videos or books are a good way to show example too.
Things you should never do, when your child won’t sit in the car seat:
- Travel without a belt. Even if it is a 10 minute drive, never let them drive without a seat belt.
- Never drive with your child in your lap. If things get really out of hand, get a taxi or someone else to drive so that you can sit with them. Don’t drive with them in the driver’s seat. It is the most dangerous thing that you can do and will be endangering your and your child’s life.
- Never put an infant seat in the passenger seat next to the driver if you have an airbag there. If you must keep the infant chair there, pull the seat back as far away from the dashboard as possible.
- Never yell at them in a car. It doesn’t matter who is driving but if you must vent, pull over and then tackle the matter safely.
- Do not let the children get too excited that there is confusion being created and the driver is disturbed.
- Never force your child to get in the car seat. Try to make it as pleasant as possible even if their is wailing and screaming. If you behave strictly, they will hate the trips.
That’s my two pence worth of carseat safety and traveling advice there. It is really interesting how with one child, everything is such a breeze and another one everything is a struggle. I guess, we grow up a little more with each child.