How to Get Your Child to Wear a Helmet, From a Pediatric Emergency Room Doctor

Getty / Tom Werner

Helmets are one of the easiest ways to protect a child from head injury when riding on a bicycle. While many children are riding bicycles as a fun way to entertain themselves, not all of them are wearing helmets when they ride. Being a pediatrician working in the emergency room (where I’ve seen children with head injuries from bike accidents), I get concerned every time I see a child riding in my neighborhood without a helmet. These injuries can range from a simple concussion to traumatic brain injury – even death.

Bicycle-related injuries are common. Every hour, nearly 50 children visit emergency departments with an injury related to bikes, scooters, skateboards, and roller skates. Serious head injuries make up about 11 percent of those visits. Head injury is the leading cause of death in bicycle crashes.

The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends that every child riding non-motorized vehicles that place them at risk of fall such as bicycles, skateboards, roller skates, scooters should wear a helmet. However, a good number of children are still not wearing them. While evaluating patients in my emergency room for arm or leg fractures, I ask if they were wearing helmets and a common response is “no.”

This response is almost consistent with the 2019 C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, which found that while helmet safety is a very important aspect of riding on wheels, 18 percent of parents said their children never wear a helmet while biking, and even more said their kids skip helmets on skateboards (58 percent) and on scooters (61 percent).

Parents must insist their children wear helmets every time. Wearing a helmet is the easiest way to protect themselves every time they ride. It is also important to ensure helmets fit appropriately and are worn the correct way for maximum protection. Here are some ways to help make sure your child wears a helmet.

Related: Get Outside and Ride: The Best Bike Seats and Trailers For Babies

  • Buy a helmet that fits correctly.
    Buying a helmet with the wrong fit is more likely going to discourage them from wearing it.
  • Take them with you to the store to buy their helmet.
    This can help make sure you get the right size, but also, children can choose designs they find more attractive and are more likely to wear.
  • Practice what you preach.
    Children learn from observation. If you ride with them, be sure to have your own helmet too. Seeing you with a helmet makes them understand the importance.
  • Have the discussion.
    Make them understand the importance of wearing a helmet and dangers associated with not wearing one.
  • Make it a rule.
    No helmet, no bike riding or skateboard riding.
  • Establish a reward system for wearing their helmets.
    But also institute discipline measures to ensure they follow the rules. Remember, you are not being punitive, you are trying to keep your child alive.
  • Have a conversation about riding other friends’ non-motorized vehicles.
    Having seen a pattern of children getting hurt in their friend’s homes. It is key to remind them always to put on a helmet or not ride at all.
  • If other children visit and ask to ride your child’s bicycle, skateboard, etc., make sure they use a helmet too.
    Show yours kids that it’s important that everyone wears a helmet.

The fact is, wearing a helmet can prevent up to 88 percent of cyclist head injuries. So let’s insist and encourage our children to wear helmets while having fun.

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