Remembering Your Kid in the Back Seat

Traveling with Tots

With the recent controversy (and horrible story) about a son killed after being left in a car (sadly we see something about this more during the summer), I thought I would weigh in with my thoughts.  I was driving around with our girls the other day and I started thinking about the reality that kids are in left in hot cars.  I thought, “Hey, I am doing a series on Traveling with Tots, I should write about this craziness!”

Let me just begin by saying that I honestly can see forgetting a kid happening for SOME parents.  I can see it being a very real possibility for parents who drive around a lot without their kids in the backseat.  I think of working moms and dads who take off for work and don’t have their kids in tow.  These parents may have the luxury of not having a routine preschool or daycare (meaning one of the parents stays-at-home).

It is less likely for this to happen to me (a stay-at-home mom) because I rarely drive around without my kids.  It is an oddity to NOT be with them, so it is very, very routine for me to be getting them in, taking them out, etc.

So, there is a room for compassion for parents who forget their kids.


With all that said I really find it hard to believe that you can completely forget your kid is in the backseat!  It just seems so strange to be that distracted – and I am a very distracted person!

And I was thinking about a solution to this problem.  My husband and I saw this video this weekend that I thought was so precious and smart:

Here are my other suggestions for remembering your kids:

# 1 As soon as you get in your car, lock your driver’s side door

As long as you don’t have doors that open automatically even if you have your doors locked, this will be just a gentle reminder to look around the car before leaving.  We have a car doors that will not open if they are locked.  The simple frustration of a locked door is enough to make me roll my eyes, look around the car and then unlock the door.  It takes less than a second, but it really works to kick-start my memory and pull me out of my distracted state.

#2 Create a routine for getting in and out of the car and then change it up regularly

When we get in our car I keep the garage door closed until the girls are safely in their seats and I am ready to start the car.  We always lock the girls in their seats, and I always buckle our youngest in her seat first.  My older girl can choose if she will get in on her sister’s side of the car or wait until I can get to the other door to let her in.  If she gets in on her sister’s side she has to get in her seat and get as much of her car seat buckled as she can.  If we get in on her side of the car, I help her get buckled through the whole process.  When we arrive at our destination, I get the older one out first and give her the choice (or make the choice based on safety) to get out with me and walk around to get her sister or to get out of her seat and wait to get out of the car on her sister’s side.

Just the fact that there are so many options to consider here means I am thinking though the process!  This means I am not too distracted to pay attention to our girls.  The routine of getting in the seats and getting buckled is always there, but there is flexibility in the routine to allow for each day to be different.  And different is memorable to me.

#3 Put away all distractions while driving

We ought to be doing this anyway because texting and talking on the phone whilst driving is straight up dangerous!  But putting away all the distractions will help to keep my mind clear of the clutter of social media and conversations.  If these things aren’t crossing my mind, I have more brain power to focus and remember my kids.

#4 Talk and sing with your kids

I honestly cannot imagine this being something that needs to be said, but I realize we live in a society that is becoming more and more insular (even within our own families).  We forget to have conversations because our mind is elsewhere.  But taking the time to talk and sing and point out landmarks along the way is more opportunity for little ones to grow and learn.  If you can’t think of anything to talk about try talking about what you see.  Ask your little ones if they can see the clouds in the blue sky or the train on the train tracks.  Or be the navigator for the car, giving directions as you go – you never know they may become better at recognizing direction and orientation better than you.


How do you remember your kids are in the car with you?  Where do you stand on parents who forget?

5 ways to remember your kid in the back seat

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. conni

    Excellent tips. This is so important as every year someone forgets their child. No child should die this way. I do have great compassion for the parent and can imagine the agony they live with. These tips could save a life. Thank you.

  2. Bri

    Years ago Oprah had a show about this. The best advise I have heard to prevent this is to put your purse in the backseat. Women don’t go to many places without one.

    1. ussleah

      Oh, that is a good one, Bri!

  3. Amanda

    I have forgotten my child in the backseat. For an hour. Thankfully without terrible consequences. But it is a memory that will haunt me forever and I still get panic attacks in the car about it.

    I’m a SAHM, too. So I always have my kids with me. But on this particular day, my husband was home and I was busy with two different engagements that day. The first one, hubby watched all three kids. The second one, I took just the baby. I’m so used to having the loud, older kids in the back seat that when baby fell asleep in the car, I forgot that for THIS meeting I had him. Not dad. I was running late, checked my phone as I got out of the car, so I was staring at that screen instead of in my car windows. It was just a perfect, puzzle of all the wrong things happening that day. We all want to say, oh it will never happen to me, how can anyone be that distracted? But it happened to me, precisely because I was out of my element. BECAUSE things were “changed up.”

    The thoughts about not texting are good. But its not texting in the car that’s the problems. The rule should be, “Don’t look at your phone until you are inside the building.” It’s passing by that window and not looking inside that’s dangerous.

    Talking and singing are great, but it’s sleeping babies where this problem happens most, so I’m not sure this really gets at the problem.

    Purse in the backseat is excellent. I also think putting one of babie’s socks or shoes on the dashboard/mirror is another one.

    Again, I’m not trying to criticize your ideas. The fact of the matter is, that nobody really realizes what it is that happens and lines up to cause you to forget your child until you actually do it. So I’m just sharing what I’ve learned.

    1. ussleah

      Thank you, Amanda, for sharing your experience! I am so thankful your little one was safe and I can understand your fears as a result. I was thinking as I wrote the post about babies falling asleep in the car being part of the problem. It is such a scary thought.
      I like the idea of putting a sock or shoe on the dashboard or mirror. I tend to be oblivious to those kind of things, but that may help some parents. I know there must be lots of ideas for making sure you look before you leave your car, and I just tried to offer a few.

  4. Madaline

    I think these are great tips. Honestly, I absolutely have NO clue how people could ever leave their child in a car. Sometimes I wonder if it’s subconscious. I know that sounds terrible, however, don’t most people always kind of peek in their cars to make sure they didn’t forget their purse, etc. In a world that rarely forgets a cell at home how do you forget your kids?

Leave a Reply