Chances are you’ve already kissed a boo-boo or two this summer. Or maybe you’ve already made a trip to the ER. As a mama to three boys ages six and under, I am no stranger to boo-boos and stitches. It is a point of pride that our family went nine boy-years before someone needed stitches! Our youngest was a year old when he received the ones pictured below after tripping at daycare last year.
As a police wife, I have learned so much secondhand from my husband when he recounts the rescues and near misses that he experiences regularly on the job. It makes me sincerely grateful for the excellent training he has received through the years. On a personal level, it was invaluable at home the night our oldest son started choking. But that’s another story for another day.
Many aspects of summer safety are common sense (stay hydrated when temps are high, slather on the sunscreen when outdoors, and don’t leave campfires unattended, to name a few). However, we Twin Cities moms are a savvy bunch. Living in the land of 10,000 lakes, we already know many of these things. I reached out to first responders and independently researched safety trends. Here I’ve highlighted four simple things that can help us keep our kids safer this summer.
4. Be a Water Watcher.
Water safety itself is a broad topic. It encompasses boating, swimming and spending time near lakes, rivers and other bodies of water. According to statistics kept by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), in 2016 alone, there were 40 non-boating related drownings. Of those, nine of the victims were age 11 or under.
With how connected to technology we have become, summer is a great time to unplug and really focus on who and what’s in front of us. The Water Safety Checklist offered by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office notes that one or both parents are nearby when 70 percent of drownings of young children occurred. Just being in close proximity to children isn’t enough. HCSO recommends that parents use “touch supervision,” as in being close enough to reach the child at all times for children preschool age and younger.
HCSO also recommends that at least one adult in a group with kids is the “Water Watcher” who focuses solely on the kids and avoids the distractions of cell phone use or even talking with others. That may seem a little extreme, but when you realize just how fast kids can move and how easy it is to lose sight of them at a crowded beach with the sun reflecting off the water, it’s actually a great idea. Add more adults to your group and take turns being the Water Watcher to avoid fatigue and share chances to socialize. Don’t rely solely on lifeguards. To ensure drowning prevention, you need to make sure that you have more than one safety measure in place. For more information, visit www.hennepinsheriff.org and www.thinkdontsink.org. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources also offers a great Water Safety Coloring and Activity book for kids that includes a study guide with prompts for parents to discuss water safety with their kids. Visit www.mndnr.gov/boatingsafety for more info.
3. Keep kids out of hot cars.
It’s easy to forget how quickly the temperature rises inside of a car on a warm summer day. It seems that hardly a week goes by without a story from somewhere in the United States about a child who was forgotten and left to die in the backseat of a hot car. Whether you choose to download a safety app on your phone, put your lunch bag next to the carseat or have a habit of always checking the backseat when parking your car, hopefully you will prevent one of these tragic accidents.
Another safety consideration for kids left unattended in cars is making sure that they can’t lock themselves in the car. It’s never safe to leave keys in the ignition when kids are alone in a car. Kids love to push buttons and explore instrument panels. It does not take much for a young child to put a car in gear – endangering themselves and others.
A locked hot car in the summer can be the source of other hazards. In 2016, my husband responded to a 911 call to assist a caretaker with getting a four-year old child out of a locked car parked in the caretaker’s driveway. It was over 80 degrees that day, several minutes had already passed and none of the caretaker’s efforts were successful in unlocking the car. The child’s medical distress was clear and it was obvious time was running out fast. It took multiple blows from three different heavy items to finally punch through a window. While my husband ended up with several cuts from the broken safety glass, he was able to help the little boy in time and provide comfort and first aid until the paramedics arrived. We learned later that there was some sort of malfunction with the key fob and that the little boy was okay.
These things can happen in the blink of eye to anyone. Use common sense when it comes to keeping kids out of hot cars unattended and make sure that you have duplicate keys/fobs handy to help in an emergency. For further tips and statistics, check out the Parenting Tip of the Week over at www.preventchildabuse.org.
2. Check for ticks.
Growing up, I recall ticks being a rural problem. Today, it’s nothing to be out in our suburban backyard and find a tick looking for a tasty place to implant. There are many opinions about what is most effective at preventing tick bites. Regardless of the repellant you choose to use (DEET or essential oils or something else), it’s still recommended that you check yourself and your kids thoroughly for ticks after coming indoors during tick season. Lyme disease, transferred by tiny deer ticks, is on the rise and its treat-ability often depends on how quickly it is caught. Mayo Clinic staff note that, “The variable signs and symptoms of Lyme disease are nonspecific and often are found in other conditions, so diagnosis can be difficult.” And if that isn’t enough, information is emerging that a bite from a different tiny tick can trigger the onset of a red meat allergy.
If nothing else, checking for ticks is the quintessential Minnesotan way to cap off date night with your husband or partner!
1. Monitor your child’s online activity.
Officer Scott Marks of the Minnetonka Police Department currently serves as the Community Engagement Officer. When I asked him what his best tip was for keeping kids safe during the summer, he brought up online safety and shared his professional recommendation that parents monitor and control their children’s online use. He observed that “during the summer months, our kids have more unsupervised time than during any other time of the year.” He went further by explaining that “…often we think of online safety as an issue that kids deal with during the school year. However, issues also arise during the summer. Gen X parents grew up in a time when bullies took a break, so to speak, because they didn’t see their victims as often outside of school during the summer.” He went on to note that the newest generation “…has technology at their fingertips as easily as we do and they use it more socially than adults do.”
One of the related issues he highlighted is that social media can also be a source of anxiety because of bullying. What can parents do if our child is being bullied online? Officer Marks offered several practical recommendations: check what sites they are going to, maintain access to their social media accounts, and keep devices in the parents’ room during the night. There really is no reason for kids to have 24-hour access to social media. Be consistent with your parenting about this.
He also recommended talking to your child about it. He suggested asking them what they can do to control what is happening. He noted that “victims of bullying often feel helpless; yet they can take control over what information they are accessing and how they react to it.” If the online bullying continues, he recommends talking to the other child’s parents as they might be unaware of what is going on and will likely want to help problem solve. He also recommends contacting your local police department for advice if talking to the other parents is not fruitful or the bullying continues.
Officer Marks recommends that parents and educators visit www.netsmartz.org, a robust website put together by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children which provides a framework and resources geared towards helping parents, children and educators having positive discussions about online safety.
If you are at all prone to the smallest amount of mothering anxiety, you are already fully aware of the tantalizing menu of dangers that summer offers up and are probably wondering why this article isn’t 44 Ways to Keep Your Children Safe this Summer. I hope that by shining a light on a few overlooked summer safety tips, you are empowered to keep your focus on the business of having a fun and relaxed summer with your family.