As a parent, it can be terrifying if your child unbuckles their safety belt or car seat restraint while you are driving. Teaching your child about auto safety is a top priority. It is critical that you provide the information in a way your child can understand.
You may be tempted to modify your child’s current car seat or booster to discourage them from unfastening a restraint. We never recommend this because doing so could reduce the seat’s safety features. Your safety seat was crash tested and approved to work as instructed.
If your child has trouble staying buckled in their safety seat, consider using a social story. While originally designed for children with Autism or other special needs, social stories can benefit all children in teaching the expectations of car seat behavior.
Social stories as teaching tools
A social story can be a great tool to help your child anticipate events that will occur in the car and understand the importance of wearing a seat belt. Including simple pictures and sentences throughout the story can help the events become more predictable. You will also teach your child to navigate an unfamiliar situation.
The most important thing your child needs to know is that, to remain safe, he or she must remain buckled in the seat during the duration of the ride. How can you teach this fact by telling a story? Think of ways to personalize the story by using photos of family members, your car, and the child’s car seat. Incorporate your child’s interests throughout the story, such the names of favorite TV shows or characters. When writing the story, use simple and repetitive language your child can understand.
After you have finished, you can read the story to your child before each trip in the car.
Following is a sample of social story you could use with your child about car safety. Personalize it with your own family details.
My seatbelt helps keep me safe.
Seatbelts are a special tool to help my body when I am in a car.
Whenever I get in the car, I must stay in my seat.
I can be a helper by staying buckled.
My family members also must wear seatbelts.
We can be safe together.
If the seat belt rubs against my body, I can tell my family, but I will stay buckled.
I can bring my favorite toy with me in the car and I can show them how I stay buckled.
We can be safe together.
If you want more specific tips about writing a social story, the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center has created a handout to help guide you through the process. This handout was created for parents of children with social or emotional communication difficulties. But parents of children of all ability levels may find it useful.
The Social Story™ as a communication tool for parents of children with autism was originally developed by Carol Gray.