As parents or caregivers of small children, we’re all very concerned with the safety and well being of our littles. Car seat safety is a hot button issue for a lot of parents and caregivers. Recently, several states have changed their car seat laws in the interest of increasing the safety of children in moving vehicles. Research has shown that rear facing carseats are safer than forward facing car seats for children under 2 years old.
While some parents were raised before car seats and “survived”, the fact is that we now have new information and technology that can better protect children from harm in the event of a car accident. And that’s a great thing, right? Safer children, less injury, less lives lost – who would argue against these positives?
It seems its not that simple.
Car seats are a touchy issue with parents and caregivers. I remember a particularly strange conversation with my mother in law, who asked if my son (10 months old at the time) “had to” wear the car seat harness because, he clearly “didn’t like it”. I sat there dumbfounded. Yes, of course, he HAS TO be clipped into the car seat! I thought that was just common sense, but for those who didn’t grow up with car seats and some modern uninformed parents (maybe those who grew up in a city with public transportation and don’t realize the necessity of car seats) discussing the absolute, non-negotiable need for car seats can become a heated conversation.
So, how do you tactfully, respectfully have these conversations with others?
Perhaps you see a mom putting her tot in a carseat incorrectly, do you walk over and say something? Maybe you see a photo on social media of improper car seat use or an infant who is much too young to be forward facing? Do you mind your own business, or do you speak up?
Traditional etiquette would say that you keep your trap shut. It’s not polite to point out the flaws in others, no matter how egregious. However, the reason the etiquette test is not the limit is because improper car seat use is really a matter of life and death.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are 10 common mistakes when it comes to car seat safety. One of those mistakes is switching to forward facing too soon, but there are 9 other mistakes that are equally hazardous that parents don’t often confront others about. Nevertheless, you should take note and ensure all 10 common mistakes are rectified in your own car.
Some tips for approaching a parent or caregiver who may need help with their car seat knowledge:
- If you’ve seen evidence of improper car seat use on social media, do not scold the parent publicly. While you might stomp your feet and insist you’re pointing out the dangers of their car seat use for “safety” or “out of love”, if those are truly your intentions, then you can easily achieve those goals in a private message. It’s not polite or appropriate to point out someone’s shortcomings publicly. And, odds are, the parent or caregiver sharing the photo truly cares about the child in question, so openly ridiculing them will be upsetting and dramatic. Don’t post it, and don’t make passive aggressive posts about car seat safety on your own wall. Just send the person a private message letting them know. Something like, “Hey! I saw the pic you just posted of Joey. So cute! I didn’t want to post this on your wall, but I wondered if you knew that the law in NJ recently changed and Joey’s not old enough to forward face, yet. Just wanted to let you know so you could avoid the pricey ticket $ !” A message like this is friendly, helpful, and non-accusatory. You don’t need to make a sanctimonious case for how the information you’re sharing will save the kids life. But, knowing you did is enough, right?
- If you’re out in public and you see a stranger improperly using a car seat. Ugh, what do you do with this one? Well, you could just make a comment about car seats and open the door to conversation. Like, “Oh, man, I struggle with getting my son strapped in all the time. It’s such a pain to take off their coats but it’s the safest way!” It really depends on what you see happening. However, if you see an elderly person improperly using a car seat, please just jump in and let them know how hard it was for you to figure these “newfangled” things out and offer to show them a “trick”, then strap the baby in accordingly.
- Say nothing and stop feeling guilty about it. Listen, I’m going to be very controversial right now, and I know there are a million passionate car seat enthusiasts who will bite my head off, BUT….there are so many things to get right and get wrong with parenting. The odds of dying in a car accident are 1 in 18,585. Meanwhile, the odds of dying on a bicycle are 1 in 4,472. The odds of an infant dying from SIDs are 1 in 2,000. Are we worrying about the right things?
Maybe people get passionate about car seat safety because it is, theoretically, something every parent should be able to control: proper car seat installation, proper seat belting, and safe driving. But, in reality, we have no control over other drivers. We have no control over most things, in life. Before you blow the whistle on a car seat faux pas, ask yourself: how can I be honest, helpful, and non-hurtful? Then do that. Not the public stoning social media attack thing. Not cool, ladies. Not cool.
For more information on car seat safety, visit The Car Seat Lady blog. She’s got way more information than I do, and you’ll find some likeminded individuals within her communities.