Thursday 23 November 2017

David Coleman answers: How do I stop my baby crying in the car?

mother looking at baby (12-18 months) sitting in car seat
mother looking at baby (12-18 months) sitting in car seat

David Coleman answers your parenting questions

Q.  I have an 11-week-old baby boy and he hates the car.

For example, he will stay in the car seat when going around the shops. However, when we are back in the car he will cry continuously from the start of the drive until he is hysterical.

I don't think it's wind either as he isn't cramping up upon taking him out.

I have tried a number of things but nothing eases this problem. I have put a mirror directly in front of him, a musical toy on the car seat, I play nursery rhymes to him, talk to him but no joy.

I have sat in the back with him on one occasion and seeing me made him worse.

He rarely falls asleep during all the crying, even though I try to time distance driving for when he is due a sleep.

I was wondering if you would have any suggestions on how to get him more comfortable in the car.


A. Before giving you some more options to try to help him settle, I hope you might be reassured to know that you and your son are not the only ones struggling with car journeys.

A quick look at message boards on parenting websites show that for every child who loves car journeys and uses them to nap, there are corresponding infants who get very, very distressed when travelling.

Many parents describe how the problems seem temporary and that after some months their babies do begin to settle in the car, having initially been very upset every journey.

The fact that you have tried many different options already suggests to me that you have done an internet search on how to help screaming infant travellers. So you may have already tried and discounted the ideas I have for you.

But, there are a number of angles to consider. Firstly think about your baby's comfort in the car.

What temperature do you think your baby might be experiencing? My best guess is that you have him well wrapped up against the autumn/winter even though it is comparatively mild still.

That means that within a very short space of time in an air-conditioned car he could be over-heating.

It may be 5C outside but could be 20C to 24C inside the car. Any sunlight coming in the window could be adding to some discomfort. So do vary the temperature (using the window or fancy climate control if you have it) to see if it makes a difference to him.

Another possibility is that the particular motion of the car may bother him and so sucking on a soother or a teething ring, or helping him to find his thumb, may help to regularise any inner-ear motion disturbance.

Some babies his age still enjoy the feeling of being swaddled or snug so check the straps and various (usually detachable) cushions of the car seat to make sure he isn't moving around too much or conversely isn't too squashed.

You may find that rather than trying to coincide a journey with a usual nap time that it might help him more to ensure he gets a feed just before travelling. So feed and burp him before strapping him in. Then the other things to try all centre around keeping him busy or distracted.

So experiment with different kinds of music or some children like the "white noise" CDs. As he gets a bit older and can manipulate toys he may be engaged with them in a way that he isn't engaged with the 'clip-on-to-carseat toy arches', or equivalent.

Your only other option is to minimise the driving you have to do with him.

But whatever you try, you may discover that it is just a series of trials and errors as you experiment. The most important thing, even if he continues to cry, is that you know that you are doing as much as you can.

We can't soothe every ill that might befall our children!


How can I make sure my daughter does not become the class bully?

Q. I am writing to you about my beautiful, bright, funny and very strong-willed four-year-old daughter. She started junior infants this year and has settled in brilliantly.

However, last week when I collected her she seemed upset and she told me that she had "given out" to a girl from her class as they both had wanted to play with the same girl. I explained to her that it wasn't nice to give out to any girl in her class and that she was to be nice and play with all the kids.

Today I was approached by this other child's mother who told me that her child was very upset last week and was saying she didn't want to go to school as my daughter was being mean and not playing with her.

I was so embarrassed and immediately spoke to my daughter about how wrong it is to treat anyone nastily and that nobody likes a bully.

I think she got the message but how can we ensure she doesn't turn into the class bully?


A.  One of the first things you can do is to stop thinking about your daughter as a bully. She is not a bully. She is just a four-year-old girl who needs to learn about including everyone and being fair with other children.

The language we use is very important with small children. If she feels labelled as a bully because of her behaviour, she may well continue to act in bullying ways to fit the label.

Many children have the experience of gaining a reputation (usually a negative one) that seems to persist amongst the adults around them. With no other perspectives on their behaviour, they can come to believe the judgments of others and feel that they may as well live up to the stereotype that has been ascribed to them.

So continue to think about your daughter as a bright, beautiful and funny little girl who sometimes makes bad choices. This just makes her a typical four-year-old since every child makes bad choices sometimes (as does every adult).

Your daughter does need to be coached in how to play cooperatively and inclusively. I think this will happen more effectively when she is shown what is expected of her, rather than being given out to for what she doesn't do.

It is interesting that the issue with excluding the other little girl occurred in relation to a third girl. The old expression of "two's company and three's a crowd" didn't just evolve for no reason.

Managing the relationships in threesomes is notoriously difficult as there is always the potential for two of the three to appear closer and to either deliberately or unintentionally exclude the third.

Since this is happening in school, your options for dealing with it directly, by intervening with the girls, is limited. So go and talk to your daughter's teacher and see if he/she has noticed the dynamic between these three girls.

Find out if the teacher can intervene, perhaps by arranging a game during break time that can include them all where they have to work together as a team. Alternatively, if they are in the same class then there may be some group or project work that they can all do together.

You could also invite both of the other girls to your house and arrange games or activities for them that will involve and include them all. Stay close by the girls so that you can observe their interaction.

Watch out for any signs that they are splitting anyone apart from the other and then interrupt them to remind them to play together and to include everyone.

It is fine, too, to talk explicitly about how it is never nice to feel left out and about how sad any of them would feel not to be included in the game, or the chat.

It is great that you have already primed your daughter to be aware of the upset and hurt that another child might feel if they get treated meanly. Now you just need to show her how to include others.

Your daughter is not a bully, she is just a four-year-old who is learning about friendships and social dynamics.

It is great that she can learn to be more inclusive, but she doesn't need to feel like a bully to do so.


Irish Independent

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