How do I get my eight-year-old to wear a bike helmet when none of his friends do? Is it really going to do much if he falls?
I am so glad you have asked how to get your child to wear a helmet! It is critical that our children wear helmets when biking, just as it is critical in the winter months with skiing, snowboarding and playing hockey.
To answer your question I turned to the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute. They have an excellent list of tips on how to get reluctant helmet wearers on side.
Firstly, wearing a helmet is non negotiable so make sure that the helmet wearing habit is there right from the very start without any exceptions. Just as putting a seatbelt on in a car is the norm and the law, so too is wearing a helmet. The moment you put your child on their first tricycle, talk about the importance of the helmet to protect their heads from possible spills and falls. If you establish the routine at the very beginning without exception, they are more likely to continue the practice of helmet wearing.
Let your child help you pick out the helmet. If they like the helmet and participate in the selection, they are more likely to wear it.
Be a role model without exception. Again there can be no negotiation for you either!
There is no question that peer pressure can reinforce bad behaviour. When their friends are over, if biking is an activity then remind them that they must wear a helmet, too.
Explain to your child why a helmet is critical. Your child knows when you drive the car you wear a seatbelt as they do. As the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute points out, their bikes and trikes are their first vehicle and safety must come first. Talk to them in language they can understand about how important their brains are.
Point out other helmet wearers. When sports are on television such as hockey or competitive skiing, the competitors wear helmets, too.
Ask your school to get involved in a general assembly on helmet protection. There are many organizations that can present the importance of protecting your brain through the use of helmets.
And remember that YOU are the parent and you enforce these rules. There is NO occasional use of their bikes without a helmet. There is no exception to the helmet wearing rule. And finally, make sure the helmet fits properly, is worn squarely on the top of the head and covers the top of the forehead. It should never be tipped back and the chin strap should fit snugly.
As the pediatric societies point out, head injuries can occur on any surface, from sidewalks to driveways and bike paths as well as streets. A fall is not a predictable event no matter how slow one is riding so a helmet is a must on every ride.
Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, June 2015.