What can I do?
Take the buggy instead.
Give yourselves a break, if it’s only a short drive, maybe you could avoid taking the car - sometimes a walk is good for everyone. Or see if you can borrow or buy a second hand front pack or back pack – kids often enjoy the elevated view they get and you have your hands free.
Take your time.
If you’re not pressed for time, delay the journey for a bit. Give them something to eat, or do a fun activity. Explain ‘If we wait another ten minutes, you’ll need to be super-fast at getting in your car seat!”
Set an example.
Make sure everyone in your family uses safety belts every time they’re in the car. Give older siblings the chance to learn to buckle themselves in - you’re building their confidence and setting good habits. When you put your seat belt on say things like “okay now it’s my turn to buckle up and be safe.”
Stay calm (fake it until you make it).
Not wearing a car seat is not an option for them. Be consistent, be calm. Smile and sing through the frustration of getting them safely strapped in. Calmly explain why they have to wear their seat belt every time – and that you love them and don’t want to see them hurt.
Reward the behaviour you want to see.
Active toddlers don’t always like being ‘clipped’ in – think about how much time in a day they’ve spend being safely ‘restrained’? Thank them each time they stay safely buckled up in the car seat. Make up a silly celebration song as you go along in the car - “You are a car seat champion!”
Act quickly if there's an escape.
If your child undoes the straps, pull over as soon as it’s safe. Explain that you’re not going to start the car again until the buckle is done up. Take a deep breath and help them do it up again.
If where you're heading is a place they enjoy, remind them the longer you spend stopped, the less time you’ll have there.
Think about the big picture.
If all the stress is tempting you to leave them unbuckled, think about what would happen if you had a crash and they weren’t in their car seat. Or what if you got pulled over by the police and ended up having to pay a huge fine? It’s hard sometimes, but try to keep things in perspective.
Make the car seat a fun place to be.
Have a car seat bag with favourite toys that they only get when they’re done up. Make the car seat itself interesting. Decorate it with stickers together. Make sure it’s also comfortable for them too – if you need help adjusting the straps call into your local Well Child/Tamariki Ora provider base and ask for a hand.
Sing to distract them.
Use a silly voice to try to distract them while you’re buckling them up. A song about going in the car (like the car seat song can work magic!) Repeating positive experiences like you singing with them establish pathways in their brains so they’ll associate the carseat with good times.
And what about you?
Over it? Use your phone timer to set a time limit for a play activity – your full attention for five minutes is better than half pai for longer.
Had enough? You may feel like you need alcohol or drugs to relax – but they often make the situation worse, especially when you have to deal with kids. Who could help you cut down or cut it out?