It really is true, moms do it all; from cooking to cleaning, from soccer practice to lice-breakouts, moms take the cake when it comes to making sure their little ones are happy, healthy and heading toward success. Moms remember to cut the crust off of PB&J’s, sign the field-trip permission slips, pick up birthday presents, and pair socks while folding. They’re Wonder Women, without a doubt. But what about those pesky things that moms can’t always control?
No matter what you do, no matter how much you plan for, sometimes life just gets in the way. To avoid accidents, there are some things parents can do before to ensure they will continue to rock the world, especially in the car where things can get dangerous quickly.
When moms think of child safety in the car, we like to imagine car seats that are made of steel, lined with fresh sheep wool and that have the ability to withstand a direct hit from an 18-wheeler. We won’t discuss the realities of this vision, just how we can bring ourselves even closer to it by providing our children, of all ages, the proper safety measures they need in the car, beginning at birth and onto teenage years.
Birth to Infancy: Newborn to 2+ Years
When you bring your new baby home, it is the most joyous moment of your life. Watching them lay in their brand new crib in the room you have spent the last several months nesting makes you happier than you ever imagined you could be. The car ride that led you to this joy, however, was most likely filled with anxiety and panic. Here are a few helpful tips to help ease the stress of driving around with your newest bundle of joy.
Choose the right car seat. This sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well it’s not. Babies come in all shapes and sizes and, unfortunately, so do car seats. Car seats can be built wide, long, bulky, and compact so choosing the right car seat for your baby is incredibly important. Choosing a car seat that fits your car is also a necessity. Too often, parents go shopping for their new car seat, get excited about one in the aisle, buy it, walk out of the store and quickly realize it doesn’t fit in their car. Avoid this by testing out car seats before you purchase one. Research is critical when choosing a car seat, so be sure you have done the latest safety checks and reviewed online recalls before purchasing your car seat.
Position the car seat properly in your car. Forward-facing car seats should be saved for children who are of proper age or exceed the weight limit for their rear-facing seats. Rear-facing car seats are scientifically proven to be safer for infants because they are designed to decrease the likelihood of spinal injury during a collision. It is also important to place the car seat in the proper area of the car. Car seats should not be placed near airbags and should be leaning at the appropriate angle as specified in the user guide for your specific car seat.
Allow for maximum comfort. I know that it is tempting to bundle your babes up in this cold weather before putting them in their car seat, but this is actually quite unsafe. The harnesses of a car seat are designed to be secured around an infant’s body, not an infant who has been decked out in snow gear. Before strapping in your young one, be sure to remove all bulky clothing and blankets so the harnesses can be secured across their chest as needed. You can put blankets or coats over the top of them to keep them warm. Another handy tip: look into specially designed beds for your babies to rest in after long trips in the car. For the safest baby beds, view best sellers from DockATot! Laying in a car seat can contribute to flatness at the back of your baby’s head if they are left in there too long, so be sure they have a comfortable area to have some tummy time afterwards.
Toddler-hood: 2+ Years or 40 Pounds or More
Your babies are growing fast so it is important to stay on top of their development in all areas of their life. You don’t leave your five-year old in 2T clothes, so you shouldn’t leave your five-year old in 2T car seats. I know it’s hard, but it’s time to retire that lions and giraffes car seat.
Use a booster seat. Booster chairs are surprisingly controversial topics for moms. Some believe a child can move to a booster when they are 35 pounds, others believe their children need to be 65 pounds before they use a booster, while some moms don’t use boosters at all and go straight from car seat to seat belt. Every state differs in their minimum weight requirement for booster use, making it difficult for parents to see truly eye-to-eye on the topic. Nonetheless, there are some general safety concerns to keep in mind when transitioning your child. 40 pounds is the average weight for children around age 5. Keeping in mind that children under the age of 12 should remain the backseat, five seems like a pretty fair age to begin the transition with your kids. They are now old enough to understand the responsibilities of leaving their car seat, but perhaps too young to know the responsibilities of riding in a seat belt. If you ever feel unsure of when to move to a booster chair like Bubble Bum, check the weight requirements for your rear-facing car seat. If your child exceeds the weight, consider converting.
Big Kid Years: Ages 5 to 12
By now, you may be more than ready to let your kids grow up a little bit. For the last six months, all you have heard from the back seat is, “Mom, when can I stop riding in my baby chair?” Today is the day when you can finally turn around, hopefully at a stop light to keep your eyes on the road, and say, “Now, honey. Now is the time.”
Teach responsibility. Moving out of booster chairs is a really big step for your kids. They are going to feel proud of themselves and begin to feel proud of their growing bodies. They will see this transition out of the booster chair as a sure sign that they are getting older and earning more privileges. As parents, we know that with each new privilege comes new responsibilities. Be sure your children know the risks and rewards of sitting in the backseat. Teach your kids how to properly secure a seat belt. Make sure they understand that the backseat is not a jungle gym and they need to stay fairly still to make sure they are safe.
Emphasize the importance of a seat belt. This may seem obvious, but as a child I can’t remember my mom specifically sitting me down to tell me how important they are. I remember watching commercials on TV, but not once did someone close to me really tell me that seat belts are important and that one day they will either save me or be the cause of my destruction. Make this very clear to your kids. Sometimes in the rush of a hectic day, you don’t always remember to check seat belts before starting your journey. If your children understand the importance of seat belts, you can rest easy knowing they will remember their safety buckle should you forget to remind them. Turn belt checks into a fun game; every time you get in the car you can sing a little jingle as a reminder, turn buckling your seat belt (correctly) into a race, take turns being the buckle police — whatever it takes to make sure everyone in the car remembers to click.
Teen Years: Those Darn Driving Years
First step: simply breathe. Second step: remove distractions from the driving equation. For the last year or so you have been working up to these days. You bought your teenager a beater car that they love to death. You are about to hand them the keys. They have been practicing for months. They passed the test. They know the rules of the road, but do they know your personal rules for driving yet? Perhaps you should hold onto those keys until they do.
Turn off technology. Phones are a leading cause in teenage driving accidents. This statistic alone is enough for some parents to choose to drive their teenagers everywhere themselves. But for most parents, you simply don’t have the time to chauffeur, and you are forced to hand the reigns over to your growing one. If this is your case, be sure to emphasize the importance of not texting and driving. Apps like CellControl and Drive Safe Mode are making it easier for parents to adjust the settings on their teen’s phone so they can’t receive messages or notifications while driving.
Set passenger limits. To make sure your kids aren’t getting distracted by passengers in the car, set a rider limit so you know your teenagers aren’t being disturbed by the clown-car full of noises that they are driving down the busy street. If you want to go the extra mile, install a camera in the cab to keep track of them. This camera will come in handy in the future for all possible collisions, traffic citations and road trip memories.
No matter what ages your kiddos are, you will look after them and try to protect them for as long as you live. Though you can’t always shield them from the world and its dangers, parents can think ahead and be prepared to better avoid dangerous situations for their little angels.