Experts Say – A Troubling Car Ride

Help! I have a 10-month-old who hates car rides and her car seat. She is usually alright 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. How can I get her to calm down without taking her out of her seat? 


This could be due to various reasons such as being restless, uncomfortable, bored or stressed. By 10 months old, the baby’s motor and sensing development have improved. The baby starts to pull oneself to stand, and starts to walk and move about. With such improvements, the child will like to explore. On top of this, her hand-eye coordination is also more specific so she will like to use their hand for exploration. Having such new skills, the child is excited to do more but having to be restraint down onto a car seat can lead her to feel restless, frustrated and angry. At this age, the child also likes to be near to her parents so not being able to see them or not able to see anything outside can cause anxiety and stress in the child. A short ride in a car is a long time for a child hence she gets bored, especially when no one is paying much attention to her. A tired child or being rushed about can also cause her to be fearful of transition or to be in a car due to a bad experience. Material and temperature can also cause the child to be uncomfortable and not able to settle down.


It is best for parents to find out what the reason may be by narrowing it down. See what causes the most responses and determine what can be done to change it. Parents can also try to give the child a toy to distract her, to play with or to explore hence the attention and concentration is there (avoid using electronic gadgets – you want to help improve her skills and not compensate it with something else). Talk to the child or sing to her so she hears you and also knows that your attention is on her. 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 in the child as this will translate to the child thus causing distress. Another good thing to do as well as to decrease everyone stress while in the car is to practice the above at home so one can fine-tune what to use to distract the child, calm her or to put the child to sleep. Also, get to child to practice sitting in the car seat for a length of time. When she responses, delay it a bit longer than let the child out. Slowly, delay it longer and once the child knows what to expect, the child may not respond negatively to it.


Question answered by:

Daniel Koh

Psychologist with Insights Mind Centre


Thanks for sharing!