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Parenting Archive

Anxiety

This summer I’ve been writing about my “other” safety passion: drowning prevention. A few weeks ago I urged all of you to enroll your kids in swim lessons. Shortly after that, I wrote about how my daughter fell into the pool during my son’s swimming lesson and I realized that I needed to heed my own advice.

And I kept my word. I immediately scheduled a recurring appointment for my daughter, Anna, and she has had several lessons already.

Crazy Woman Puts Her Kid Back in A Booster

My son is 11 and 77 lbs. He’s also 5’ tall, taller than some women (and his teacher)! We had a 2005 Toyota Sienna until January that he never seemed to fit well in. I talked about how he didn’t fit and included a picture in this blog post on how to tell if your kid still needs a booster. In January, we bought a new vehicle and he fit differently in the back seat than he did in the Sienna. Yay! He could ride without a booster! How exciting. I didn’t particularly care: he appeared to fit in the seatbelt OK and that’s all that mattered. However, I couldn’t see him in my rear-view mirror anymore and that drove me crazy. I could hear him doing things, but couldn’t see what was up and had to rely upon my dd to tattle on him—“E, what’s your brother doing? E, is he sitting up straight? E, what was that sound he just made?” All as if he existed in a vacuum and couldn’t hear me.

Staying Afloat

Most people know me as a child passenger safety advocate, but few know that before I developed my obsession with car seats, my child-safety passion revolved around drowning prevention. With summer fast approaching, the topic is more pertinent than ever.

There are many steps people can–and should–take to prevent drownings. Fences, alarms, pool covers, and, of course, parental supervision. Another layer of protection comes from teaching children how to swim. If your young children don’t already know how to swim, please consider enrolling them in lessons.

This has been a bit of a controversial topic in the past. For a long time the American Academy of Pediatrics advised against swimming lessons for children under age 4. They said there was no proof that swimming lessons for smaller children did any good. They also worried that parents wouldn’t watch their kids as closely if they thought their kids could swim.

The problem is that it’s very difficult to prove a negative. How can we demonstrate that a child didn’t drown because that child had taken swimming lessons, or that they would have died had they not taken lessons?

It’s also true that some parents probably would become complacent and not watch their kids around water because they figure their child is “drown-proof,” but that is where emphasis on parental supervision needs to come in.

Last year the AAP did wind up revising their recommendations to include swimming lessons for children over age 1. They still wouldn’t be thrilled with my having enrolled both of my children in lessons at six months–again because there’s no proof it helps–but they do now believe that toddlers and preschoolers can benefit from learning to swim or learning water survival skills.

I liken swimming lessons to teaching kids how to cross the street. You don’t want a 2-year-old crossing the street alone, but that doesn’t mean you don’t talk to him about it. You tell him not to run into traffic, to cross while holding hands with an adult, and to look both ways. You certainly never expect him to be alone next to a street street, but if he ever is, maybe there’s a chance that he’ll remember your lessons.

The same goes for water. We never expect our children to be near a pool, river, lake, or ocean by themselves, but even the most attentive, careful parents have lapses or miscommunications. If young children find themselves near water, isn’t it better that they have learned about potential dangers? If they wind up in the water, isn’t it better that they have learned skills that might save their lives?

Of course knowing how to swim or get out of a pool is only one aspect of a cohesive system of safeguards. I like the “Safer 3″ approach to pool safety:

  • Safer Water: Install barriers and maintain safety equipment
  • Safer Kids: Have constant adult supervision and teach kids to swim
  • Safer Response: Know CPR and first aid, and have a phone with you at all times

In the coming months, play safe around the water, buckle up, stay hydrated, and try not to get a sunburn. (I have already failed on that last point–hopefully you’ll be luckier.) Most of all, enjoy time with your family and have a fun-filled summer!

It Was 10 Years Ago Today

It was back in 1999 when I became frustrated with child safety seats. My son was born in 1998. We had a Century Smart Fit Plus infant carrier and extra base. It fit well enough in my car and an extra base seemed to fit fine in my wife’s car, too. The following year, I moved my son into a rear-facing convertible. 

I went right back to Century and bought a SmartMove convertible seat. I had some problems installing it. Well, I couldn’t install it. Little did I know at the time that the SmartMove was one of the most difficult child safety seats to install and that my car (a 1991 Saturn SL2 sedan) was one of the more difficult vehicles for installation, too. That combination made it impossible for me to get it installed correctly. As an engineer, I was astonished that cars and carseats could be designed so poorly that they simply would not work together.

I went to the internet. I searched. I posted on the usenet Saturn newsgroup and elsewhere. I found a toll free number for the helpful people at NHTSA’s Dash-2-dot line. I ended up returning the Smartmove and buying a Britax Roundabout that worked much better.  The Evenflo Horizon V and Fisher Price Safe Embrace were also suggested to me as options that might work.  Funny thing about the internet. Everything is archived!  I even had the seat inspected at my local police department.

That episode began my interest in child passenger safety.  After my son was 1 year and 20 pounds, I turned him forward facing in a Cosco High Back Booster with a 5-point harness, at the time a top-rated model in a leading consumer magazine!  I didn’t like it very much.  How could such a highly rated model be so difficult for an average parent to install and use? 

I then became very interested in the upcoming LATCH system that promised better compatibility.  I decided to make a web page about it.  In fact, I decided to make a few webpages to help parents find the same resources that I found to be helpful.  I also wanted to create a discussion forum where parents could ask questions without having to register and without having to see any pop-ups or other advertisements.  That High Back Booster was eventually replaced by a LATCH-equipped Century Next Step DX.  I liked that seat enough that I wrote my first carseat review about it!

On April 8th, 2001, I registered http://www.car-safety.org/ and http://www.car-seat.org/ forums and they went live within 24-48 hours after that.  Later that year, I attended my first CPS conference, became certified as a technician and also become co-ordinator of our county’s Safe Kids program.   It’s now 10 years later, and these websites are now among the busiest independent websites on the topic!  In March, just the forum alone generated over 220,000 unique visitors who viewed 7.6 million pages of information!  Car-Safety.org compiled over 61,000 unique visitors who viewed nearly 100,000 pages of information in March.

In 2007, I started CarseatBlog (almost 50,000 unique visitors and nearly 200,000 pages in March), though we didn’t start blogging regularly until the next year.  Also in 2007, I had to begin accepting subscriptions and advertising, as hosting costs for the websites had become too expensive to continue to pay on my own.  You can still post a question without registration, though thanks to spammers, there is a delay from when you submit a guest post to the time when it appears to the public after being approved by a moderator.

Anyone interested can read more facts about the forums in this post.  There is also some history of the forums posted here.  Thank you to every single visitor and member who has made Car-Seat.Org a success!  Its main goal remains the same as 10 years ago.  To help parents find the information they need to protect their children from their #1 cause of fatal injury!

Rear-Facing Until 2 Years Old: Why Not?

Any time a new recommendation from anything resembling an “authority” is released regarding the welfare of children, critics come out in droves to decry the advice. Sometimes, they have a legitimate concern. Other times, their reasoning is inherently flawed or purely emotional. For a background, be sure to read about the new AAP recommendations and check out the Rear Facing Link Guide for references. In this blog, Heather, Kecia and I put together some answers to fourteen popular questions:

1.) Won’t my toddler be uncomfortable facing the back? No, he or she will be just fine. Most toddlers are actually more comfortable rear-facing because the carseat is reclined and it’s much more comfortable to sleep that way than sitting upright in the forward-facing position. Plus they can prop up their feet instead of having them dangle unsupported.

2.) Won’t their feet or legs be injured because they are bent or crossed or touching the back of the seat?  No, but this is a very big misconception among parents. In reality, during a frontal crash (the most common type of crash), the legs will fly up and away from the back seat. It’s also much more important to protect the head, neck and spinal cord in a crash which is exactly what rear-facing carseats do so well. If you’re still not convinced – there is this study by CHOP (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) that looked at injuries to children ages 1 – 4 who were hurt in crashes and leg injuries were rare for those kids in rear-facing seats. However, injuries to the lower extremity region were the second most common type of injury for the kids in forward-facing seats. That’s because the legs of a child in a forward-facing seat are thrown forward and can hit the console or the back of the front seat. Study quote: “Injuries below the knee were the most common, particularly to the tibia/fibula, and they most often occurred due to interaction with the vehicle seatback in front of the child’s seating position.”