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Tips for Choosing and Using a Child’s Car Seat

Tips for Choosing and Using a Child’s Car Seat

When you have a baby, there are so many decisions and purchases to make that it can have your head spinning, particularly if you are a first-time parent. From the stroller and the cot to the nursery decor and the clothing, to name just a few, there are plenty of choices you have to make.

One of the most important ones, though, that you really don’t want to rush or get wrong, is your selection of a child’s car seat. Take a look at statistics and you’ll see that thousands of children are injured in motor vehicle crashes each year (the number was more than 120,000 in 2014), and sadly hundreds of children die too.

Many injuries and fatalities occur because children are not safely buckled in or strapped into a car seat during transit. In fact, a CDC study found that, in one year, over 600,000 children aged between zero and 12 rode in vehicles without the proper safety precautions at least some of the time.

In recent weeks, the death of two children in the United States has further raised awareness of the importance of the proper installation of child safety seats. It is imperative that parents select a car seat that is the right option for their child’s age and size, and that it is installed properly. Read on for some tips you can follow today to ensure your family stays safe when traveling by vehicle.

How to Choose a Child’s Car Seat

When it comes to choosing a child’s car seat, you’ll find that there are two main types to choose from: infant carrier car seats, and convertible car seats.

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Infant Seats

Infant car seats are designed to support smaller babies and can be more convenient when you have a young one. However, they are typically only suitable until your baby reaches between 20 to 30 pounds (the weight limit varies from car seat to car seat).

The major benefit of an infant car seat is that it can snap in and out of a sturdy base which gets strapped or latched to the backseat of your car. This means that it is easy to transfer a baby in and out of the car (which is particularly great if they are asleep); plus many models snap straight into stroller frames for convenient transport.

The drawback to the infant car seat, though, is that babies grow out of them quite quickly. Once a baby hits the weight limit of the seat or its head sits within an inch of the seat, you will need to move to a bigger option.

Convertible Seat

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A convertible car seat, on the other hand, can be adjusted to suit your baby as it gets bigger in weight and or length. These types of seats can be converted from a rear-facing position to a forward-facing one once your baby is big enough (generally seen as two years of age or up to 22 to 40 pounds). They can often accommodate children up to 70 pounds, and provide great flexibility and longevity as a result.

The downside of a convertible car seat is that it is less convenient if your baby is asleep since you can’t just snap the cradle out with the baby inside. Also, be aware that convertible seats, due to their nature, are typically a little less secure for newborns. If you decide to go with this type of seat, then make sure your little one fits very snugly — you may need to use a padded head bumper or other padding to stop a newborn’s head from wobbling around in the seat.

Notes for Any Seat

When selecting a car seat it pays to look for one that:

  • Will be easy to clean
  • Has clear, straight-forward instructions available if you want to install the seat yourself
  • Has easy-to-access harness adjusters and an easy-to-adjust harness height

How to Safely Install and Use a Child’s Car Seat

Installing your baby’s car seat correctly is imperative.

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Start With Your Car’s Owner’s Manual

Before you go shopping for a car seat for your baby, it is a good idea to read the owner’s manual for your vehicle so that you can see exactly where a seat can go (keep in mind child car seats must always be in the rear of the car, not the front), and how it must be installed.

Be aware of how much room you will have available in the back seat since large bases may not fit in smaller cars, and consider who else will need to sit in the back of the car and in what spot.

Check Which Attachment Option You Have

Car seats can be attached using either seat belts or a LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) system, so check the user manual to see what option is available to you. Also, read up on where the LATCH attachments might be in your vehicle.

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Contact a Professional

After you have purchased a quality car seat, it is just as important that it is fitted in your vehicle correctly. If you want some assistance with this, consider utilizing a Child Passenger Safety (CPS) technician. These technicians are certified by the government in the proper installation of child car seats and can be found at locations such as hospitals, police stations, fire stations, and your local AAA. You will find a searchable database online via the NHTSA website if you need help locating a CPS technician in your area.

Featured photo credit: shutterstock.com via shutterstock.com

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Published on September 21, 2018

11 Smart Pieces of Advice to Help You Thrive as a Single Mother

11 Smart Pieces of Advice to Help You Thrive as a Single Mother

Becoming a mother is one of the most difficult challenges a woman can take on in her life. Whether this happens the “natural” way, with the help of science, or through adoption, being in charge of nurturing another human being is a herculean task to take on.

Typically, when we think about parenthood, we imagine two parents sharing the responsibility and having each other to lean on. However, according to the 2016 U.S. Census Bureau, 1 in 4 children under the age of 18 are being raised by a single mother.[1] This is a significant portion of the population that often gets overlooked.

If you are one of these mothers raising your children on your own, you are undoubtedly aware of the additional challenges that motherhood has placed upon you, including the constant struggle to find sufficient time, energy, money, and support.

For single mothers who find themselves bogged down by their daily responsibilities and struggle to stay afloat, don’t be fooled by the belief that you have to do all. It is possible to thrive and live as a single mother if you take advantage of all available resources and adjust your priorities based on your situation.

1. Find your community and ask for help

As the sole caretaker of your kids, going through the successes and struggles of parenthood can feel isolating and lonely. You have probably developed a strong sense of independence because you’ve had to go at it alone.

Being self-reliant is necessary in many situations that you have to face, but do not fool yourself into thinking that you don’t need support from others. If you have family nearby, strengthen your relationship with them by visiting and talking more often. Find time to catch up with old friends or co-workers, and don’t assume they don’t want to hang out if they are not parents themselves.

Would you prefer finding mom friends[2] who have more in common with you? Use resources like apps, Facebook groups, and community events to meet local moms in your area.

After you have established a support group that you can depend on, don’t be afraid to ask for help. It is NOT a sign of weakness or incompetency to admit you can’t do it all, and others are probably more willing to lend a hand than you think.

If you feel uncomfortable burdening others, suggest trading favors such as taking turns babysitting. Because after all, helping is each other is what community is all about.

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2. Make peace with the past

Before you can move forward, you must make peace with your past and not let it define you or rule your life. Whether your journey to single motherhood was through divorce, death, or never having a relationship the father, it is crucial that you leave behind the feelings of abandonment or betrayal you may be struggling with.

You cannot change the past and the hurt you had to endure, but you can use the strength that you gained from overcoming those obstacles to work towards making the best life for yourself and your child. Learn from the past but live in the present and look towards the future.

3. Make plans and set goals

The daily repetition of trying to balance work and home life can make you feel like you are on operating on autopilot. However, it is imperative to set goals for yourself and to keep working towards self-improvement.

In your personal life, you can set a fitness goal (train for a 5k), a reading goal (read 20 books in a year), or a travel goal (take a trip to Europe). At your job, you can set career goals such as gain leadership experience, get a promotion, or earn a degree or certificate.

Spend time creating a realistic plan to on how you can go about achieving these goals. Not only will working towards these goals make you a more well-rounded and successful person, they will bring more purpose and fulfillment to your life.

4. Look for role models

A great way to jump start your plans for the future is to find a role model or mentor who is further along in their life or career experience. This person can be a great resource when you need guidance on what types of goals to set for yourself and how to achieve them.

It’s also important to have people to turn to for encouragement during difficult seasons of life. Someone who has been through it before can provide the most genuine reassurance that tough times will get better and that staying positive is best approach.

5. Rethink your priorities

Single parents have twice as many responsibilities to take care of, so priorities and expectations must be adjusted accordingly.

Know that you are not superwoman and striving for a perfectly clean home, no dirty laundry, and home-cooked meals for your kids every day is not a reasonable expectation. It’s okay to take shortcuts sometimes, like serving your kids cereal for dinner or waiting until the next day to wash the dishes.

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Don’t compare yourself to anyone else and let go of the guilt that you feel for being the only parent that your kids can count on. Give yourself a break and don’t sweat the small stuff.

6. Make time for me time

Even though it can be difficult to find, making time for yourself is critical to maintaining your sanity and well-being. Without a built-in partner to take over, finding time to be away from the kids must be done intentionally and planned in advance.

If you are sharing custody, use the time away from your kids not only doing productive things but also making sure you are taking care of yourself. Sleep, exercise, and balanced diet are not things that can get pushed to the bottom of the priority list. Also make time for fun activities, such as hobbies and creative outlets.

Even though being a mother is the most important job you have, don’t let it be the only thing that defines you. Time for yourself is more difficult to find if you are the sole caretaker of your kids.

Use the resources that you have to devote time to self-care, and you and your kids will thank you for it in the long run.

7. Stay organized

With so many things to juggle, great organizational skills are an absolute must in order to keep everything moving smoothly. Use apps such as Mint for your finances, Mealime for meal planning, and Cozi as a family organizer for everything from appointments and shopping lists to after school activities.

Maintain constant contact if you are sharing custody so that it is clearly communicated who will be responsible for what when it comes to your kids. Follow consistent routines in the morning and nighttime so that your kids also know what to expect on a daily basis.

8. Be flexible (Don’t be a control freak)

Although it is important to be prepared and stay organized, things don’t always go according to plan.

When kids get sick and have to stay home or babysitters cancel at the last minute, allow for flexibility by having a contingency plan for childcare and with your employer.

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For example, make a list of people you can call when you need last minute childcare, or talk to your boss in advance about working from home when emergencies come up.

Most of all, don’t let unexpected changes stress you out and ruin your day.

9. Learn to say no (Don’t feel guilty)

Single mothers have limitations in time, energy and resources that families with two parents wouldn’t be able to understand. Because of these circumstances, it’s important you let go of feelings of guilt and stop trying to do everything and be everywhere.

You don’t have to say yes to every single birthday party your child is invited to. Your kids don’t have to be involved in sports and extracurricular activities every night of the week.

Limit the things you do to only the ones that are the most enjoyable and meaningful for you and your family. Doing more things does not make you a better mother; simply a more tired one.

10. Live within your means

When you have to raise your family on a single income, budgeting and spending within your means becomes more important than ever.

If you have outstanding debt that is accruing interest, make it a priority to pay those off as soon as possible. Outlining a budget is the best way to visualize how much money is being spent every month on various things and what is left over.

Find ways to save money on the necessities by looking for sales at the grocery store, buying some things secondhand, planning out meals.

After the necessary bills are paid, determine how much can be spent on luxury items such as eating out, vacations, and going to the movies.

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Don’t let finances be a source of anxiety for you and your family. Keep your bank account in good shape while teaching your kids how to spend money responsibly at the same time.

11. Spend quality time with your kids

The time you spend with your kids is so precious and much more limited as a single mother. Make the time that you spend with your kids count.

Rather than sitting in front of the TV, take them on fun and budget-friendly outings to the park, the playground, or a museum. Use meal times as the perfect excuse to ask them about what they are learning in school and the friends they spend time with.

When your kids ask you to play with them, look at it as a privilege and an opportunity to bond with them, rather than a distraction or waste of time. Be present when you are with them, with no work or multitasking on your mind. Your relationship with your kids will absolutely reap the benefits.

Final thoughts

Being a single mother is not an easy job. That’s why it’s important to use all the resources available to you in order to make this job a little bit easier.

Using technology, an organization system and a supportive community are just a few examples of things you should utilize to your benefit. It’s also important to shift your mindset and be more practical when it comes to things like priorities and finances.

Most of all, don’t forget about your own self care. Only when you take care of yourself can you best take care of the people you love.

Single mothers are some of the most hard-working people out there, and you deserve to have a happy and fulfilling life.

Featured photo credit: Alvaro Reyes via unsplash.com

Reference

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