We have a rule in our house. No helmet, no bike. And we are hardcore about it!
My parents drilled this into me as a kid. It was such a fact of life that even fear of embarrassment and worry I wouldn’t fit in among my un-helmeted friends wouldn’t stop me. I put on that helmet.
And thank goodness it became such a part of my routine. Last year on a family bike ride I experienced a bike crash so epic I don’t even remember the bike ride itself! I only remember waking up in the ER with two broken arms, facial fractures, and complete confusion about how I ended up there.
But I was alive.
I credit that helmet with saving my life and life as I know it. Without it, I might have permanent brain damage or worse. Instead I had wrist surgery, physical therapy, mild memory loss, and headaches.
I wasn’t doing anything wild and crazy. I was less than a mile from home, on a bike path I’d ridden dozens of times. It only took one slip on a wet section of road to send me flying.
My accident underlined the absolute necessity of helmet wearing. Not only for our children, but for us as adults too!
It’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of safety, especially when we are riding on roads that are familiar, well traveled, and close to home. Prior to my accident, I would see kids and adults riding down our street without helmets and barely notice. Now, I have the urge to go full-on “old lady on the porch shaking her fist.”
Helmets protect our most valuable organ — the control center that makes complex actions like riding bikes or skateboards or rollerblading possible. Sure, remembering your helmet is a hassle. It may even seem *gasp* uncool in some groups. But I work with military veterans who’ve experienced traumatic brain injuries (TBI) in combat, and they’ll freely tell you how uncool it feels to have a brain that doesn’t work like it used to.
Here’s a few easy tips to build a culture of cycling safety in your family:
Should I ALWAYS Wear a Helmet While Biking? Hard YES!
Set the example early and follow the rule without exception.
Humans, by and large, are not very good at assessing risk. So it makes sense parents spend more time worrying about things less likely to harm their children (e.g. kidnapping), than some of the most common causes of serious injury in children (e.g. cycling-related head injuries).
Make it a family mantra that EVERYONE is expected to follow ALL THE TIME: No helmet, no bike.
Combat the Fear of Not Fitting In
Your kids will encounter friends who don’t wear helmets. It’s unavoidable. It’s also likely your kid will someday be faced with a choice about whether or not to wear his or her helmet among a sea of bare-headed friends.
You can increase the odds that your kid will make the right safety choice by talking about these situations before they ever happen. Work out some possible responses in advance.
When I was growing up I used the old “blame it on Mom” response: “Oh dude, my mom would kill me if she found out I didn’t wear my helmet! Let’s go.”
Get Your Kid a Cool Helmet!
Let them personalize it with stickers, or get one with a faux mohawk, or bedazzle it. Whatever it takes to make it “cool,” it’s worth it!
Point Out Professionals Always Wear Helmets
You’re not going to tune into the X-Games to find Tony Hawk or motocross stars without helmets. No way, no how. The pros know if they want to continue to enjoy their favorite sports, they have to protect their most valuable gear (their brains).
Head on over to the nonprofit Helmets.org for more helpful information about helmet-wearing and how it can make all the difference.