We’ve heard this story many times, especially in the warmer months, parents who forget their kids in the car. Every time this topic comes up in my social circle, everyone swears that would never happen to them. They tell me the precautions they take to ensure it will never happen, whether it is singing along with them in the car, or leaving their keys in the back seat. My husband and I always text each other after drop off with “How was drop off?” to give each other the peace of mind. Now that the weather has cooled off, so has the topic. But what if your child was stuck in a car for an extended period of time, do they know how to get out of the car or call for help?
A few mornings ago, I had two kids to drop off in the morning before work – one to my parents and another to school. Usually my husband and I share the drop off duties but he had an early meeting so he wasn’t able to commit so I took both kids in my car. As I pulled up at my parents’ home to drop off Arya, Mackenzie asked to leave the music on. I left the music on, locked the car and ran in to drop off Arya. The house was quiet, my parents were still sleeping. As I was yelling from the foyer to wake up and take Arya upstairs, my car alarm went off. I unarmed it but it went off again. I forgot my car had motion sensors which caused it to go off.
I returned to the car within the next 60 seconds. Mackenzie was in tears and surprisingly out of her car seat. We have never taught her how to get out of the car seat, but was relieved to know that she figured it out. I asked her if she tried opening the door, she said no because she saw me from the window. The car alarm made her sense something was wrong so she got out of the car seat.
I told her what she did was right, because in any scenario you do not feel comfortable, you find a way out. It got me thinking, what if I never returned to the car, what would she have done? Would she have figured out how to open the door from inside? What if we were in a car accident, would she know how to get help?
We started to talk about car safety went through various scenarios. Some things we discussed were:
- Honk the horn and make noise to call for help
- If we are in a car accident, get out of your car seat, help your sister get out of hers and safely get out of the car to call for help
- Look for cars if you do get out of the car
- Open the window if it isn’t safe
- Windows don’t work? Try the moon roof (if you have one)
- Why does a car alarm go off and when to panic?
- What can happen in a car accident? Air bags go off, etc
- Car keys – which buttons mean what, and why we don’t touch them unless it’s an emergency
- Call 911
I didn’t realize how important this was until now. Please take a few minutes out of your day and teach this to your kids. Remind them every day as you are in the car, and also remind them that if it doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. As parents, we cannot be there with them every second of their lives, but we can empower them to make the right decisions. Life is full choices, and it is up to them to make the right one.