Every parent dreads the day when their child receives their first injury. Whether it’s a scraped up knee, bruised eye, or broken arm, you always wish there was something you could have done to avoid the injury from occurring.
While minor scrapes and bruises are a normal part of childhood, life-changing childhood injuries are not. Even though you cannot guarantee that your child will never have an injury, there are ways to greatly reduce the chance of a serious injury (and you don’t have to sacrifice the joys of childhood).
Start Protecting and Teaching Your Child Early
Before their baby is born, many expectant parents “baby proof” their home with cabinet locks, outlet covers, and anchoring furniture. While this is an essential step that is strongly recommended by all family and pediatric physicians, you must continue to “proof” your home as your child grows.
Locking cabinets and gating off stairs are always a good idea, but it’s also just as important to teach your child about safety from an early age. Don’t wait until your young child develops language skills. Start talking about things that are “hot” or cause an “ouch.”
Always Use an Age Appropriate Safety Seat
Today’s car seats are better than ever, and for a small (yet affordable) investment, you can purchase one that receives top safety ratings. Teaching your child to buckle up in a car starts during infancy.
Even though the concept of safety will not register with your infant, your child will begin to understand safety at an early age and often starting as toddlers. Always make sure that you have an age, weight, and height appropriate car seat and that you know how to install and use it correctly.
Safety Gear is a Must
Outdoor play is an essential part of a healthy and happy childhood. The great outdoors offers seemingly endless opportunities from engaging in pretend play and playing at a park to participating in sports or riding bicycles.
As your child gets older, they may protest the thought of wearing a helmet when riding a bike or elbow pads when skateboarding. Teaching your child to wear any available and appropriate safety gear from an early age will help them understand the necessity and “norm” of wearing it as they get older.
Educate Rather Than Create Fears
Parents are well intentioned at warning their children about potential dangers but can often end up making their children fearful rather than teaching them how to handle a crisis or prevent an injury.
As a parent, it’s natural to worry about your child and it may seem like keeping them away from something is the best thing. Children should know basic swimming skills to reduce the risk of drowning and even how to act around a strange dog to avoid being bitten.
Children learn many safety skills in school, but parents should never assume that their child is learning everything they could to stay safe and free from injury.
Participate and Investigate
Whether your child is going on a school field trip, going out for an extracurricular sport, or staying overnight at a friend’s house, take these opportunities to get involved, ask questions, and make sure your child is as safe as possible.
Volunteer as a parent coach, chaperone a class trip, inspect sporting gear and attend parent meetings. If your child has a new friend, get to know the parents and see if they have guns, dangerous dogs, or other potential hazards in their home.
You can’t protect your children at every moment of their life, but you can teach them how to reduce their risks of being injured and how to make good decisions that will ultimately make them safer, happy, and healthy.