Child Safety Harness, Leash Backpack, or Tether… Call it What You Will, I Have One and Use It


A child safety harness. A leash backpack. A tether. Call it whatever you want. I have one and use it to keep my daughter safe.

Let me set the scene…

I closed the preschool door juggling my daughter, Celia’s snow pants, boots, backpack, and my own bag while corralling my two children as we moved towards my car. My son was my shadow and had been going through a particularly emotional time and was needing to talk a lot. I was splitting my attention between him, my preschool-aged daughter and all. the. gear. When I turned briefly to answer my son, my preschooler took off down the deck that leads to the parking lot. She looked back over her shoulder grinning with her hair whipping in the wind because she knew she was going to be in trouble. I raced to catch her before she got to the parking lot, pushing my older kiddo aside in an attempt to get to her faster. I wasn’t fast enough. She bolted down the ramp and I watched in horror as she jumped off the curb into a parking space and into the path of an oncoming car. I stopped breathing at that moment and imagined every horrible thing that could possibly happen next.

Thankfully, my story has a happy ending. The driver of the car was another preschool mom and she had been driving slowly while watching the whole scene unfold.

I scooped up Celia, utterly terrified, and yelled at her. Yup. I yelled. I was so scared and so angry. I was not the calm attachment parent I want to be. I was mortified and scared and angry. I blamed myself. #momguilt And this wasn’t the first time she’d bolted quickly and dangerously out of my reach.

We’ve had MANY conversations about safety and staying close around cars. I ran through the sequence of events in my head and wondered what I could have done differently. I sat in the car shaking and immediately ordered a child safety harness or tether.

tethered child and mom
Safely tethered

Before having kids, I said I’d never need anything like this child leash. I’m sure I even judged others for using one.

I didn’t understand then but I do now. Still, I often feel embarrassed and ashamed when I make my own daughter wear her tether in public. I worry that someone will call me “lazy” or “disgusting” or say something ridiculous like, “Children aren’t dogs.” But I also know I’m doing what I need to do to keep her safe.

We’ve only had to use the tether a handful of times Usually the threat of it helps Celia remember our expectations. We practiced using it a few times at home to get a feel for how it works, and now whenever we’re in a place where she absolutely must stay with me for safety I can pull it out of my bag and she knows the drill. I personally use and prefer the hand to hand style tether (“our special bracelet”) to the leash backpacks because it feels more secure and a bit more discreet. This is just what works for us though. I am sure the backpack tethers work well too.

Now, when I see other parents out with a tethered child I no longer judge.

Child safety harness
Safety is our priority

Instead, I mentally give them a high five and I smile in passing. We are all just trying to keep our children safe. So, if you see me out with my daughter you can judge me, or high five me, but know this: I was genuinely afraid for her life when I bought it and wouldn’t wish that moment of terror on any parent.

Have you ever used a tether on your children? Would you use a child tether on your kids?



  1. So call it karma or whatever… about 5 years ago I was traveling with my oldest, who was 3 yrs old at the time, visiting a new city where our family was planning to move.

    As we waited to board our first flight I noticed another mom with her kid on a tether. I remember snickering to myself and thinking ‘paranoid mom’. I had prepped my kid, talked to him about staying close, holding my hand, being in a strange crowded place, etc, etc. I covered all the bases, right?

    We take off, arrive at a connecting airport and stopped briefly at a kiosk for a bottle of water. My kid was at my side. I paid the cashier for my water and my kid vanished like a puff of smoke. I start calling him, no answer. Walk around the kiosk, no kid. Yelled into the terminal, nothing. Just nothing.

    For the next 10 minutes (which felt like an eternity) I lived every parents nightmare as I tried frantically to find my kid. Screaming at the top of my lungs, asking if anyone saw him. A few bystanders came to help. Thankfully, and luckily, my happy ending came when TSA finally found him across the terminal at a check point. I still have no idea how he got so far without anyone noticing. That day I learned a few lessons.

    1. It happens SO FAST! Literally a blink and they are gone.
    2. No matter how much you prepare, kids are curious. And they like to run. It’s their nature. There is no changing that.
    3. You can never be too safe. Get the tether.
    4. Never-ever-EVER judge another mom for doing what works for her and her family. Raising kids is hard, scary work. We need to do a better job of supporting each other along the way.


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