Mr Daniel Koh, a psychologist with Insights Mind Centre (HP: 9363 5815) answers your queries on dealing with your preschoolers’ emotional well-being.
My 10-month-old absolutely hates being strapped in her car seat. She is usually all right when I buckle her in but when we start moving off, she screams and cries for most of the journey, till we unbuckle and carry her. It makes going out a challenge. How can I get her to relax?
This could be due to various reasons such as being restless, uncomfortable, bored, stressed or anxious. By 10 months old, a baby’s motor and sensory development have improved. The baby starts to pull himself to stand, walk and move about. With such improvements, the child will like to explore. On top of this, his hand-eye coordination is also better so he will like to use his hands for exploration. Having such new skills, the child is excited to do more but having to be restrained in a baby chair can cause him to feel restless, frustrated, angry and restless. At this age, the child also likes to be near his parents so not able to see them, having to face a back seat or not able to see anything outside can cause anxiety and stress. A short ride in a car is a long time for a child, especially when no one is paying much attention to him and he gets bored. A tired child or one who is rushed can also beome fearful of being in a car. Material and temperature can also cause the child to be uncomfortable and be not able to settle down.
It is best for parents to find out what the reason may be by narrowing down the possibilities. See what causes the most anxiety or discomfort and determine what can be done to change it. Parents can also try to give the child a toy to distract him or play with him to keep him occupied. Avoid using electronic gadgets – you want to help improve their skills and not compensate it with something else). Talk to the child or sing to the child, so the child hears you and also knows that your attention is on him. When the child is able to calm down, reinforce the good behaviour while ignoring the crying unless the child is uncomfortable or in danger. Monitor your own stress as this will affect the child and cause distress. Another good thing to do is to practice the above at home so parents can fine-tune what to use to distract the child, calm or put the child to sleep. Also get the child to sit longer by putting the child into the chair and letting him remain there for a bit longer after he starts showing discomfort. Slowly, delay it further. Once the child knows what to expect and gets used to it, the child may not respond negatively towards it.