June brings safety awareness month, which makes sense as we kick off the summer. For most of us, particularly in Alaska, summer means trying to maximize our daylight hours by hiking, fishing, biking, camping, or just playing in the backyard or our neighborhood until the late evening hours. As our activity levels go up, so do the opportunities to injure ourselves if we do not take precautions. It is important to pause and make sure you, as well as your children or the children you care for, remember how to stay safe in order to make sure summer is spent having fun, not laid up and injured, watching your summer months drift away.
Kids are going to be adventurous. They will fall, slip and tumble. It’s part of being a kid (and for some of us, part of being a “big kid”). We can’t necessarily stop that, and we wouldn’t want to. There are little things we can do, however, that safety experts say can keep our kids safe from preventable injuries.
- Involve your children in safety planning. The more they are involved in the discussions surrounding safety prior to an activity, the more likely they are to think about it in the moment. Pre-teach, or have a safety moment, before venturing out on your adventure. Taking a hike? Talk about the importance of being aware of animals and what to do if you encounter wildlife. Going swimming or fishing? Talk about water safety and the rules of the pool / lake / boat before you hop in the water. Riding bikes? Talk about the importance of wearing your helmet and the rules of the trail. Pre-teaching right before each activity emphasizes importance and keeps safety on the forefront of a child’s mind.
- Teach children about first aid kit contents and their locations. Go over the different supplies and what they are used for. Talk about the steps they would need to take to clean and dress minor scrapes and cuts. Practice using supplies they may not be familiar with. The more they know, the more likely they are to use the supplies when they need them.
- Teach children about 911. Practice what they would need to do and say to a dispatcher in an emergency. Part of understanding what is an emergency is knowing what it is not. A fire, an unconscious family member or friend, and injury where someone cannot move— these are all things that would require a call to 911. A skinned knee, a stolen bicycle, or a lost pet wouldn't. Still, teach your child that if ever in doubt and there's no adult around to ask, make the call. It's much better to be safe than sorry.
- Help children understand hazards in their environment. With summer comes freedom and opportunities to explore. Teach children how to maintain personal safety, and the reasons why it is important. Saying to your child, “Don't do that” or “Stop” or “Be careful” doesn't really work". Be specific: “Always let an adult know where you are if you change your plans. It is important for us to know where you are to keep you safe.”, “Stay on the bank of the river, do not go in the water. The current is strong and can pull a person down the river”, “The electrical box is dangerous and can shock us. We are not allowed to touch it or go near it”. Identify the hazard and explain why it is dangerous so they can understand the reasoning behind the rule.
So, get out there and enjoy the summer months while keeping our kids (and our “big kids”) safety in mind!