How can I protect my child from accidents?

Fortunately, the problems that disable older folks (like heart attacks and strokes) are exceedingly rare in kids. Preventable accidents are one of the biggest causes of death in children, and are the number one cause of death in kids between the ages of 1 and 10! Here are some important things you can do to help your child grow up safely.

Decide early in your child’s life that you will never compromise your child’s safety for any reason.

Let other people who care for your child know that you take safety seriously, and that you expect them to do the same. This also means that you must never give in to your child’s tantrums or demands where safety is concerned. Whether to go to bed at 8 or 9 o’clock might be negotiable; but wearing a seat belt is never optional. Other caregivers need to be aware of this, too. Grandma may want to spoil the grandkids, but sitting in grandma’s lap in the car is just not safe. Be prepared to stand firm on these issues, and set a good example yourself.

Always, always use a car seat, booster seat, or seat belt.

The right restraint for your child depends on his age and weight (see our information sheet on car seats.) Using the wrong type of restraint for your child can be uncomfortable (causing your child to not want to wear it) or even dangerous. Also, it’s the law.

Set a good example by wearing your own seatbelt. If your child unbuckles or climbs out of his restraint for any reason, stop the car. Firmly inform him that the car doesn’t move until everyone has a seatbelt on. And stick to it, even if you lose 15 minutes.

Have your child use a helmet for biking, sledding, and skiing.

Head injuries can cause permanent brain damage. Tell your child not using a helmet when bike riding means loss of bike privileges. In Tennessee, it is now state law that children under 17 must wear bike helmets or be fined.

Tell your child not to pet strange animals without a grownup’s permission.

Children have a natural curiosity about animals and usually don’t recognize when animals are hostile. Fortunately, rabies is rare in all animals except bats and possums, but the danger of bad bites and scratches – especially if they become infected – remains. Occasionally, pets can carry bacteria which can be passed on to a child. Your child shouldn’t ever touch any wild animals of any kind. Unfamiliar pets should be touched only after asking the owner’s permission.

Don’t talk to strangers.

If a stranger makes your child feel uncomfortable, insists on talking, or tries to touch your child, teach your child to run and yell for help. Be prepared to support your child if he does this unexpectedly with someone he doesn’t recognize. For example, say, “I’m so proud of you. You did the safe thing, and I’m sorry Mr. Carlisle scared you,” not, “Why did you run away from Mrs. Jenkins? That was very rude!”

Lock up guns.

Many families, especially in our area, enjoy the outdoors and hunting. It is important to realize, though, that many children die from accidents related to firearms. If you choose to keep guns at home, remember the following:

  • Lock up guns in an approved gun cabinet or gun safe. Don’t just “hide” your gun. Kids tend to find, often unintentionally, hidden guns.
  • Take the key out of the lock.
  • Always store your guns unloaded.
  • Lock up ammunition separately from the guns.
  • Explain to your children that they are not allowed to touch guns, ever, unless with a grownup. If an accident did happen, the presence of someone else to get medical attention can make the difference between life and death.