According to the Center for Disease Control, the number one cause of death in America for children under the 18 are unintentional injuries; commonly known as accidents. Accidents are just that—accidents—they do not happen because of calculated or purposeful steps. We cannot prevent them all from happening, but we can take small steps to make them less likely.
- Look for the Risks: Houses are usually adult-friendly. But even if something is safe for adults, there can still be a lot of potential hazards for a child. Take time to go through your house, room-by-room, and determine if something is safe or not. A great place to start it is the kitchen. Can your children reach the oven? Is there something heavy on the counter that could fall off and hit someone on the head? Make sure that you are aware of where you are storing things. While a big blue bottle of soap may not look enticing to you, a child does not know the difference between that and some of the bright-colored drinks they love.
- Make Spaces that are Safe to Explore: As your child begins to grow and learns to climb and open all sorts of things, you need to be alert for new hazards. You’ll probably need to change the environment to make sure your home is still a safe and creative place to play and explore. In turn, try to make spaces that are safe for them to explore. This can be done in their bedrooms, the living room, or even a playroom if you have one.
- Teach Your Child What is Safe and What is Not: Children learn to do many things through watching and repetition. For example, if they see you using the oven, maybe they will want to use it to. Instead of just telling them “no” and leaving it at that, explain to them WHAT is dangerous and WHY it is dangerous. Often, accidents happen because children do not have the information needed to understand why they shouldn’t do something. If you spend the time to talk to them about it, you are reducing the likelihood of them doing as such.
- Be an Example of Safety: As adults, we do not always make the safest choices. Sometimes, we may go for a swim alone, or perhaps we walk away from the oven (for just a moment) to take a phone call. Your children are watching these habits, and they themselves may make them to feel more grown-up. So, how do we prevent children from picking up these dangerous, and sometimes lethal, habits? By trying to model safe behavior as often as possible. You may not always be perfect at it, but in times when you forget, make sure to take the time and explain to your child why the choice you just made was not a safe one.
- Practice Makes Perfect: We never want bad things to happen to those we love, but sadly, life does not always go as we plan. Because of this, you should have plans set for you and your entire family. Do not just create plans, but make sure to practice them as well. For example, you may want to practice your family’s evacuation from a fire, practical skills like first aid, and even pretend calls to local emergency numbers (like 911 or the police). Your child knowing the difference between not knowing what to do and knowing what to do in case of an emergency may save someone’s life. Even your own.
Once every seventeen minutes, a person in the United States dies in a home related accident. Several of these accidents are preventable. Make sure you are doing what you can to make your home safe, to teach your children about safety, and to be an example of what safe choices look like.