June 29th, 2009
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Riding in a car is what most of us do daily, if not for hours a day. We really don’t think about driving habits or car manners much, until someone (or several some-ones)cause a ruckus and throw things out of the normal.

When Preparing for Mita and Enu, I realized that it was probable that they had never used a seat belt or a car seat. Mita and Enu had lived their entire lives in Addis Ababa and their dad was a taxi driver for most of that time. While some kids from rural areas may have never been in a car until they went to the children’s home, I knew my kids would be used to cars. I was worried about if they would give me issues with the seatbelt. Hubby and I decided early on that we would put their seat-belts on them from the start and not budge on it at all. They fussed a bit, but it really wasn’t a huge transition.


Our issue was where do they sit. Kids are kids everywhere and the old joke about “she touched my part of the seat” is so true, even with newly adopted kids. They fought over who had the middle seat and pouted over not be able to sit up front. I tried many things at first. I would rotate seats every time they got in (minus the car seat – that stayed put) then I tried rotating every day. My brain was on overload and I couldn’t keep up. My hubby kept telling me to assign seats and be done with it, but for some reason I fought that idea as it sounded to strict.

I finally listened to him and for the past year the girls have rotated seats on the first of every month. They keep track of the calendar and now there is no fighting for the most part. If a friend is with us or we are in another car, there tends to be a flare up, but for the most part we are doing well.

I wish I could say that was the only issue we had with the car, but alas, it is not. I had to put the child locks back on since Mita and Enu would open the car doors before the car was stopped. I make use of the window lock, because they love to roll up and down the windows as much as possible. The seat-belts tend to be tangled with whatever seat Mita is assigned to for that month (I have no idea how she does it, but she does). The head rests are often adjusted, readjusted or taken off. I find piles of trash all stashed somewhere or books, papers, video games, clothes, pillows, candy, water bottles…the list goes on and on. This sounds like most children, I know, but remember when you bring an older child into your life, everything is compounded. The “she touched my seat” argument can actually elevate to a serious meltdown. Having your child clean up the mess under her seat can be more than a routine chore.

My advice. Keep it simple. No food in the car unless you are prepared to clean it up. No DVD’s in the car (for long trips I concede this)because it causes to much fighting. Assign seats for long periods of time. Start early with the good car habits.

Along with inside the car, you need to let them know how to act appropriately and safely in a parking lot. Mita thought it was a hoot to hide from me behind parked cars (ahhh). They would often throw open the doors and almost hit the car beside us (child locks prevent this). They would also touch all the other cars and windows. These are silly little things that should get over quickly, but remember everything seems elevated to a stressed parent.

For younger kids, I have heard that getting used to car seats can be difficult and that some parents start out with very short trips (like the length of the driveway, then the street,then the park, etc.) I encourage you to keep your kids safe and use car seats and seat belts at all times.

My youngest homegrown kiddo has always hated the car seat and she is four and a half now, still complaining about it. Some kids just don’t like it, and we just have to get used to the crying and yelling. Eventually you block it out, and I know that sounds cold, but it is true. Of course trying to bond and build trust does not go well with letting them cry in the car. This means you may not be going anywhere for a while or you may walk a whole lot more. Every situation is different and I am throwing out some different ideas to help you prepare for or deal with your individual situation.

Please share any stories you may have getting your child used to car seats, seatbelts and good car habits.

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