My Child Hates The Car Seat

Annie The Nanny

Annie The Nanny

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Annie the Nanny is a professional parenting educator. She writes a weekly advice column for parents who need help with their children's behaviour. Her advice has also been featured on CTV, CBC and in all kinds of print media. For more information about Annie, please go to her 'about' page.

Hi Annie,

How are you? I hope you had a good Christmas. I have a problem in that my child hates the car seat. She’s two.  Every time we go on a trip, she screams that she wants out. We’ve tried various ways to help her enjoy the trip, such as car snacks, toys, and games, but it doesn’t work. It makes car trips a nightmare, and even her six-year-old sister has had enough, not to mention my husband! Have you got any suggestions for me as I’ve run out of ideas?  Ellie

Hi Ellie,

My Child Hates Her Car SeatThis must be very frustrating for you all. I’m curious if you’ve considered the possibility that she might get carsick. If the snacks, toys, and games don’t make any difference, her troubles aren’t likely to be because she’s bored. Car sickness can obviously make children very unhappy, and it’s difficult for them to explain their problems at that age. If this sounds like a possibility, take a look at her colour when she’s in the car. Does she look pale? If so, I would check with your doctor and find out what’s available to help prevent car sickness. You may also find that remedies such as acupressure bands can make a difference. I get asked a lot of these kinds of questions through my parent support services, so you’re not the only one dealing with these kinds of issues.

My child hates her car seat: Try taking the car seat out of the car for practice.

Make sure, too, that your car is not too hot and stuffy, and that your child stays away from greasy fried foods, which can often contribute to the problem. Offer frequent light snacks and keep going with the games, etc., making sure she’s encouraged to focus on objects further away from the car. Travel on highways as much as you can, as frequent stops and starts can also contribute to feelings of discomfort. If you don’t think that’s the problem, maybe it’s an issue with the seat itself and a possible dislike of being confined. You don’t have the option to dump the seat, but you could bring it inside the house and let her get used to it outside the confines of the car, which may help.

My child hates her car seat:  Try making the experience nice.

You could also try making the car seat and the drive in general a bit more comfortable. You could add a soft blanket to make it nice and cozy. Perhaps play some music or some favourite songs. You could offer a distraction like some physical toys to play with if you like, but don’t take too many, i.e., perhaps bring along a small bag of her favourite dolls or toys or a book. You want her to understand that the car seat is a non-negotiable item, and though she can have something extra to play with, she still has to sit in the seat. When she does sit there, and at the end of the journey, don’t forget to offer her lots of positive reinforcement.

Last but not least, try to model your calmness. If you get all uptight about her having a meltdown over her seat, she will be able to feel your anxiety. The more calm and relaxed you are in the car, the more she will pick up that the car is a relaxing place to be.

Best of luck.


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