In many ways parenting is a lot like a military job: it’s a 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year commitment.
As a parent, you are balancing the elements of your life with your child’s needs and it can be tricky to manage. Your work, your relationship with your spouse, even daily tasks like laundry can make it impossible to be ever-present for your children. At the same time, you know that any lack of attention, including leaving a child alone at home, in the car, in the bathtub or in a public area such as a playground creates a higher risk for childhood injuries and even a tragedy.
Here are a few important ways to help keep kids safe.
Five safety wins for military parents
Your first job as a parent is to keep your children safe. That is often easier said than done, as anyone who’s had a toddler bolt into a busy parking lot will tell you.
Consider these safety tips to take your parenting game to the next level:
- Arrange for supervision. To ensure your child is safe when you can’t be around, consider military child care options, including the Child Development Center and family child care homes on your installation and off-base military programs.
- Eliminate home hazards. Childproofing your home is more than just covering electric outlets and installing cabinet latches. Nearly 9 million children are treated for unintentional injuries in hospital emergency departments each year. For families that move a lot, it can be tough to remember just how many things pose a danger to children. The most common hazards include:
- Unsecured weapons – Every day, 20 children in the U.S. are hospitalized for gun-related injuries. Keep your weapons in a gun safe and store ammunition separately.
- Medications, vitamins, personal care products and household cleaners – Most poisonings occur when parents or caregivers are home but are not paying attention. Keep potential poisons out of reach.
- Water – A child can drown in just a few inches of bath water. Never leave a young child alone in a bathtub, and secure toilets and other sources of water in your home.
- Climbing hazards – Secure bookcases, dressers and TVs with brackets or straps. Be aware of open windows.
- Hot stoves – Keep the handles of pots and pans turned inward and out of children’s reach and be aware of where your children are when you’re using the stove.
- Unsafe bedding – Accidental suffocation or strangulation in bed is one of the primary causes of sudden infant death. Keep your infant’s bed clear of stuffed animals, pillows, crib bumpers and soft bedding. If you live in a cold climate, talk to your pediatrician about the safest way to keep your infant warm in bed.
- Power down your electronic devices. There are about a million things going on in the life of a parent from one moment to the next – grocery lists, job tasks, social media and nonstop “breaking news.” Technology has made it easier than ever to multitask, but it’s also made it easier to lose focus on your children. Electronic distractions can rob us precious time and attention needed to keep children safe and healthy.Remember that too much attention to the cell phone or TV can be a distraction from the supervision your child needs. Plus, kids know when they have your full attention, and it will make them feel important and loved. Find tips on powering down technology for both you and your children.
- Prevent child sexual abuse. No parent wants to think about sexual abuse of children, least of all abuse of their own child or teen. However, smart and responsible parents arm themselves and their children with the information and skills to help protect their children’s personal safety, including:
- What’s considered to be normal sexual behaviors for young children and teenagers
- Setting, maintaining and respecting healthy boundaries as children and adults
- Where you can turn for help if you witness child-on-child sexual misbehavior, or child abuse or neglect – including the Department of Defense’s Family Advocacy Program
- Reach out to your community. The military community is also a parenting community. Chances are, a lot of the people in your unit, your job and in your chain of command are parents too. Reach out – you may be surprised by the tips you’ll get from neighbors, coworkers or child care providers.
Check out MilParent groups and more resources for parents here, or read up on ideas for how you can help out a MilParent you know here.