It’s summer! Summer means fun! Vacation, travel, and even just running errands with Mom or Dad. When your kids are home with you, taking a few extra minutes to review summer safety can mean the difference between fun and some very scary times.
When you have small children, you often wish you had four more hands and two more sets of eyes. It’s SOO hard to keep track of littles ALL the time! They squirt away in a crowd, hide under clothes racks and generally scare the pants off their parents on a regular basis.
So how can you enjoy your summertime outings without winding up with a stomach ulcer and high blood pressure? Or worse, with injuries or illnesses to deal with?
1. Stranger Danger
Small children need to know what to do if they are approached at the park, playground or store by an adult or teen that they don’t know. In many places there are organized safety classes (in Cleveland it’s called Safety Town) but you can do a lot to help your child stay safe around strangers.
First of all, you don’t want to make your child afraid of all strangers. After all, most strangers are just friends you haven’t met yet! Telling your child that strangers are bad or dangerous will only make her more anxious when she meets new people.
I heard it said once that children should be aware of “tricky” grownups. That sometimes grownups like to play tricks on children. Because it’s hard to tell whether a grownup is being tricky or not, a child should check with Mom or Dad (or Grandma or other trusted “safe” adult) before believing what a grownup says, if it’s someone they don’t know well.
If a child has a feeling an adult MIGHT be “tricky,” (not that they ARE, just that they MIGHT) he should follow the “No, Go, Tell” rule. He should say “NO” as loud and as often as he can, he should “GO” away from the tricky adult, and “TELL” a safe adult like a parent, grandparent or teacher as soon as possible.
A child’s “uh-oh feeling” should always be respected and reinforced. If something doesn’t feel right, it ISN’T right. If a child is taught to ignore that feeling, it will go away and one of the child’s most effective safety mechanisms is lost.
2. Getting Lost
OK, if you’ve NEVER lost track of your child in a crowd, raise your hand. Nope, didn’t think so. If you have a small child (or worse, more than one!) it’s a guarantee he’s going to get away from you at some point.
You can start teaching very small children what to do if they’re lost. First, they should come out in the open so they are easily seen, and stand still. If THEY know they’re lost, chances are YOU know they’re lost too, and are looking for them.
If you’re in a store or at an amusement park or someplace that has easily-identified employees, make sure to point them out to your child. For instance, when at Target point out the lady stocking shelves wearing a red shirt and a nametag. Then tell your child if she gets lost, first she should go out into a main aisle and look in all directions to see if she can see you. If not, she should then look for an employee (while standing still) and keep watching until she sees one. Once she sees an employee, she should go up to her and tell her she is lost and needs help finding her grownup.
This is a good one to role-play. When you’re at the grocery store, you can play hide-and-seek. This means you pretend you’re lost, and your child has to find you. (Of course, you are in sight all the time, but have your child pretend you’re lost.) The important lesson is that the fastest and safest way to find a lost parent is to find a store employee and have THEM locate the lost parent while keeping the child safe.
One important word about safety. PLEASE make sure your child knows that police officers are good guys. A policeman is one of the safest grownups your lost child could possibly come across. You do NOT want to make your child afraid of the police. If you were at the summer festival and your child were lost, that off-duty police officer providing security would be the best possible person for her to approach for help finding her lost parents.
3. Travel Safety
Car seats are the first word in travel safety for kids. Even when on long car rides, small children should be buckled into an appropriate safety seat any time the car is moving.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that small children (less than 4 years old and 40 lbs) be secured in their car seat when traveling by airplane. The FAA allows children under 2 years of age to be held on a parent’s lap, but it may be worth exploring whether your child could have his own seat on the plane.
At the very least, you will need a car seat when you arrive. Car rental companies have seats available for a fee, but they will need a heads-up that one will be needed.
NEVER leave your child alone in a car. For any amount of time. For any reason. In the summertime, temperatures in a car can quickly climb well over 100 degrees. Small children have died this summer after being left in the car for only a short period of time. It’s not worth the risk!
Summer is meant to be fun! With a little planning you can keep your small children safe AND enjoy yourself this summer!
QUESTION: What other safety tips would you give other parents? What did I miss?