Most kids will have a period where they really don't like going in the carseat. I've found the resistance spikes towards age two and diffuses between three and four. Probably it has something to do with the child gaining independence.
Here re some of the tips we've discovered over time for helping our children with these carseat issues.
- Limit trips. This is the most straightforward tip, obviously, to reduce the amount of trips you take with your child when they're really not happy in the carseat. Don't worry, limiting trips doesn't spoil them. In the long run, they will learn to sit in their chair with the seatbelt on, trust me, but during these difficult times, when protest is highest, just put them in the car less, if possible.
- Plan trips carefully. We try to arrange it so longer drives coincide with our son's sleep pattern, so he'll doze off pretty quickly. Sometimes it means we'll drive around their bedtime and put them to bed wherever it is we're going.
- Get audiobooks or audio stories. Seriously, for us this has been a lifesaver for when they're awake. What works best for us is the ones that are of the audio play type, with different voices and sound effects. It keeps them busy and happy.
- If they're ok, try to avoid eye contact. Sounds a bit harsh, maybe, but for a small child, they just want to be in your arms if you're in close proximity. So if they're ok, avoid checking on them constantly, because that just reminds them you're right there.
- Provide pillows or neck support. There are special wrap around the neck pillows for kids who are still in a carseat that make sleeping much more comfortable, hence they'll sleep more soundly and for a longer time.
- Bring food they love. Try to make it something that's not so messy. It might be borderline bribery, but we reserve certain foods for car trips. If they have to go through something they dislike, we figure they can have something they wouldn't get otherwise (like a cookie or lollipop). Most of the time this works really well too.
- Sing along music or their favourite children's music works well for some kids too. Having a specific CD or playlist for the car, where they can look forward too is also a good idea. I will always fondly remember the Joe Dassin cassette my parents popped in when we had almost reached our holiday destination each year.
- Figure out where to sit best if there's two adult sin the car. For my son, it works best when I'm not next to him, because then he'll just want out to sit on my lap, but when my daughter was little, I had to sit next to her and hold her hand and sing her songs… Every child is different.
- If your child is old enough to fully understand what's going on (I've found this is mostly when they themselves are eloquent enough to express their needs) tell him where you're going. If they refuse to get in the seat by themselves, just wait it out. Tell your child you won't move the car until they're ready. It can take a while, and it may need repeating, but it's a good way of making them understand how things work.
There isn't a single foolproof method and you'll probably have days when there's resistance no matter the methods you've tried. Remember that this too shal pass. My daughter is now five and a half and knows she has to be attached in the car, and does so without much of a fuss.
photo credit: sean dreilinger via photopin cc