In the last week or so I have done several radio interviews on the topic of keeping kids safe in the summer time. The concerns parents have brought up – and reports from a pediatrician and beach patrol director who were on one of the shows with me – are beyond scary! Here is what I gleaned and I pass these notes along. The list is far from complete and I offer it as a starting point only. Please comment and add your wisdom
- sun safety: even if kids are wearing protective clothing, parents or caregivers should still apply, and re-apply, sunscreen. watch for signs of overexposure and overheating.
- bring enough water for yourselves and the children: stay adequately hydrated. be aware that some metal water bottles have fabric on the inside of the spout and some kids have gotten their tongues caught inside. oh no!! maybe pour water from the bottles into paper cups?!
- water safety: children should learn to swim as soon as parents think they are ready but still you need to watch the little ones _ all _ the _ time _ and, of course, swim only at pools and beaches with lifeguards.
- beach safety: approach the lifeguard when you first get to the beach to ask if there are any special concerns that day. do this to show your child or children who they should approach if they did get separated from you – and to model asking for help from appropriate people – as well as to get the information.
- day trip and travel safety: have children carry identification (at least your phone number) as well as a note on health conditions and/or medications, if necessary. some hotels provide wrist bands for parents to fill in and put on their children.
- share the responsibility: make sure the adults with you know who is watching who. make sure, also, that children, especially pre-schoolers, know who is watching them. maybe carry a whistle and agree on a signal for meeting if you get separated?
- if you staying in a hotel with a balcony: check the spaces between the uprights in the railing. a tragic accident occurred recently in Virginia Beach VA where a child fell to his death through posts 6″ apart. they had not been brought up to current code which allows only 4″ spacing. i checked my porch rails at home: they are 3″ apart. whew!
- finally, the question of other caregivers: trust but verify. the sad reality is that most child maltreatment, including molestation, is perpetrated by individuals our children know. let your children know that they should pay attention to how they feel and if they are uncomfortable with anyone anytime, they should do their best to get away from the situation. children can be told that, if necessary, they should yell or scream something like ‘This is not my mother!’ or ‘This is not my father!’ so that any bystander would not ignore their distress as being that of an unruly child.
the refrain i ‘sang’ at each interview was the importance of emotional awareness and good communications. our children need to know that they can always come to us with their worries. we need to pay attention to our own concerns, as well, and talk about them calmly, not to frighten the kids, but to validate the importance of being aware of the real dangers that exist, hand-in-glove, with all the wonderful summer fun that is out there!