Several years ago I attend a 32-hour car seat safety course. Watching video after video of test dummies crashing into brick walls makes a girl think twice about ever getting into a car again, let alone taking a small child anywhere in one! Now that I am a mom, I am acutely aware of the dangers that surround my adventurous toddler every day.
As parents, it is tempting to turn into safety czars, micromanaging every activity our children even think about doing. But living under such a ruler does not teach our kids the life skills and decision-making abilities they will need for life outside of our homes.
Here are some guidelines to help you sort through what really matters when it comes to keeping your kiddos safe:
Do Legitimate Research
If you see it on Facebook, PLEASE do more research. Be sure the information you are using to make safety decisions for your children is from a reputable source. Pay special attention to the research from which the information originated and note which laws actually apply to your country and state. Do not believe every “study” you see on the internet.
From vaccine decisions, to introducing solids, to peanut allergies, there are a million theories available. If your research leaves you baffled, talk with your physician. If your physician is not helpful, find a new one who aligns with your health care philosophies. Keeping your kiddo safe can be a team effort if you surround yourself with helpful people and information.
Consider the Worst-Case Scenario
When I was pregnant with my son, I had a high blood pressure reading. My doctor said to come back in a week so we could re-assess. The second we left his office I was on the phone with my mom, a labor and delivery nurse. “Tell me what this means. What is the worst-case scenario?” I begged. Was I going on bed rest? Would there be medication? Was this how my mom’s pregnancy went when she had hypertension and gestational diabetes? What was going to happen to my baby and me?
Right then I realized that I live my life best when I know the absolute worst thing that can happen. When it comes to making decisions about my son’s safety, I arrange my life in the same way. The worst-case scenario of my son not being strapped into his car seat properly could be catastrophic. The worst-case scenario of my son not being strapped into his stroller for a walk is that he will start to slide down in his seat, which always catches my eye and is quickly corrected. While in both cases we are talking about straps and buckles, the outcome of an accident in either case varies significantly. So, we enforce our buckling-in accordingly.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
While I refuse to live my life in constant fear that something terrible could happen at any second, wisdom requires attention to what is happening in the world around me. This past summer we were enjoying a morning at the park with some friends. We quickly noticed a Crown Victoria, painted like a police car, but with a civilian license plate and no lights or markings. In the car were two adult men, positioned to see our crew perfectly through their rear-view mirrors. I had noticed that same car circling the park the day before while I was on my morning run, so it piqued my interest. I discretely took a picture of the car before we left that morning, making sure the license plate number was distinguishable.
As I walked back home, I noticed the same car a block from my house. I immediately called my husband. Despite the fact that I had a 70-pound boxer at my side, I wanted to do everything possible to keep myself from being an easy target. I began talking LOUDLY about how I would be home to see my husband in just a second. At the park I knew we had been safe. The police department was a quarter mile up the road, cars were passing by on a regular basis, and our group consisted of at least a dozen people. But walking home with just my dog and toddler, I wanted to take every precaution to stay safe. Thankfully, nothing ever came of that car and I never saw it again, but knowing the steps I had taken to ensure our safety made all the difference. It may even be the reason we never saw that car again.
Every day we can choose one of two paths. We can spend our time fretting over the unknown, desperately going to extremes and bubble wrapping our children to spare them any potential discomfort. Or we can set a good example for our children by resting in our wise decision-making. We can keep our kids safe while also keeping ourselves sane.