Car seats, stair gates, or simply holding hands – Family protection takes many forms

Posted by & filed under Finance, Lifestyle, Moving Experience, Protection Insurance.

August is proving to be an exciting but also reflective month for me. My son’s first birthday is fast approaching, and everything’s almost organised for a great day of celebration with friends and family. As Rachel and I were going through the list of invitees I realised how much has changed in 12 months. Not only has our family grown, but our circle of friends has evolved too. The balance of games and party food will weigh much heavier towards child-friendly than at any previous gatherings at our house!

In my first 12 months of being a dad I’ve learned a lot too, and there’s been a number of challenges to overcome. It’s not just the adjustments needed because there’s a little person in your home, and the changes to routine, but I’ve also noted a strong and (I assume) natural urge to want fulfil a role as protector / provider for mother & child.

Having had very little previous experience of looking after children, I’ve learnt to care for my son on a practical (and nappy filled) level. There have also been occasions that force me to learn to place my trust and faith in the opinions and expertise of other people, and accept that my desire to help to make a difference sometimes needs to take a back seat, and to allow those more qualified take control.

After his non-standard arrival, Theo’s earliest experiences in the world revolved around spending time in hospital in the NICU – whilst he might not have known anything about it, I found it tough to be in unfamiliar territory, and perhaps feeling a little out of control. I wanted to help and to offer something constructive, but I had no idea what, and needed to let the brilliant doctors and nurses guide us in what was best for our son. I had to accept that we could do nothing but love and care for him, and to trust their judgement. He’s a strong lad and recovered quickly, but in my first week of trying to be a responsible dad, that was a steep and fast learning curve.

Fast forward a few months to when Theo was 3½ months old, and we again faced a medical emergency one Sunday morning. Once more we were reliant on the advice and expertise of the hospital team who explained 3 very clear but risky options. We were guided by their years of experience and knowledge, and I could nothing more than support and comfort him during his procedure and hold his hand.

I seem to spend quite a bit of time trying to fill gaps in my knowledge, so that I can be better prepared for new challenges when they arise, and the new equipment we may require. I find myself hunting on Google, looking at Mother and Baby forums, reading reviews such as Which? and checking out awards lists for relevant products. Most recently my research time has been spent on the task of finding new car seats, as Theo’s outgrown his first.

The biggest shock to me was the statistics that I read about the difference in child-safety when comparing rear-facing versus front-facing seats. Staggeringly, research shows that (in a frontal impact) a child under 4 years old is 5x more likely to suffer severe, even fatal, injuries in a front-facing seat, due to the fragility of their still growing bones and muscles. On that basis there’s no way my little man is going to be in a front-facing seat – simple as that. This short video sums things up both clearly and succinctly  You can find more information about rear-facing seats at this website.

So, with that in mind, it got me thinking about other ways in which we, as mums and dads, as the protectors of our families, can help to ensure that our children and partners can be protected / provided for if, for any reason, we’re not able to carry out that role. I recently read in Best Advice that research on behalf of TSB showed that 61% of house-buyers don’t have any protection policies in place, yet 53% of respondents actually worry about what would happen to their loved ones if they were hit with a critical illness! Another recent statistic, from Aviva showed that only 1 in 5 first time parents have any life cover. Protection is one of the areas of our business which I’ve always been passionate about, and it’s become even more significant as my family increases. On both a personal and a professional level I find the above statistics alarming. This is an area where, as a parent, you can take control and you can make a difference.

As I’ve relied on others for their advice and knowledge, I thought it might be helpful to do my bit, and to share my own expertise in this area, as part of your research into these things. There are four options available to you with Life cover, 2 of which are lesser known:

  1. Decreasing Term Assurance – Lump sum used to repay mortgages / loans.
  2. Level Term Assurance – Provides fixed amount of money, for a fixed period.
  3. Increasing Term – Inflation linked benefit, that won’t devalue over time.
  4. Family Income Benefit – Instead of a lump sum, in the event of a claim, a regular income is provided for an agreed period of time.

There’s a number of ways in which policies can be arranged, but in summary the objective is to ensure that your family are protected – even sometimes if you’re separated from them. Family Income Benefit can be a powerful and low cost way that could help if:

a)    You are paying maintenance to support children living with your ex-partner – Should something happen to you, those payments could continue and the child(ren) wouldn’t suffer.

b)    The children are living at home, and therefore rely upon you financially to provide for bills, clothes, etc. Should something happen to you, an income can be received by the family until the children can complete their education and become financially independent.

I find it frustrating that Family Income Benefit is not better known, and can only assume that the insurance industry has failed to educate and develop a widespread awareness of the product. There are people who would prefer to provide a lump sum, that may then be invested, but there are others who welcome a more simple ‘does what it says on the tin’ approach. For this second category of people, an FIB arrangement that will offer an agreed amount, to help their family for a period of time, could be the right choice.

What I’ve come to realise and appreciate is that sometimes we need the advice and opinion of others, along with some facts, to help us make our own decisions. Often it seems that spending a little time researching, finding the right people with the right knowledge can reveal massive new insights, and change our perception and ability to make the right choice. In my case, I managed to find the perfect rear-facing car seats from Britax (for our ‘family mobile’) and Joie to be used for our second and the grandparents’ car.


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