Helping Your Child Respond to Tragedy

By Dixie Walker

Think of the most recent tragic event that’s made headline news. What was your initial response to it? Did it create fear in you? What about uncertainty for your future? Did it make you feel afraid to continue your normal daily routines, wondering if something bad would happen to you or your family?

Times of upheaval are difficult for everyone. We all want to think our world and the environments we live in are safe, secure, and happy. However, when unexpected disasters occur, we’re often left without understanding or reasons behind the chaos. And for children, these difficulties are especially upsetting.

Adversities come in a variety of ways. We may encounter natural disasters such as tornadoes, floods, or hurricanes. We see video and photos of the ways weather can destroy individuals’ lives, homes, and belongings. Other times we may face what appears to be an untimely accident or death of a loved one. And, sadly, there are also senseless catastrophes caused by the evildoing of mean-hearted people.

It is reassuring to know that none of these situations are a surprise to God. In fact, our Heavenly Father gives us words of comfort for such times. In John 16:33 we read, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. You will have sufferings in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

As parents, you wish to protect your children from the grim circumstances that are happening in our world. However, kids often hear of these events from their friends, in classroom discussions, or through the media before you know they’re aware of the situation. Although there is the desire to explain these difficult conditions to your child, be careful to temper details according to his age and level of understanding.

Here are a few guidelines that can make these frightening situations easier to get through with your children:

  • Keep daily schedules intact. Children find security in routine. As much as possible, continue your child’s normal procedures with school, home, church, and friends. Doing this will show your child that God helps us deal with everything that comes along in our lives and that we can move forward.
  • Discuss tragedies appropriately. It’s not healthy to offer unnecessary traumatic information to children. But if your child asks you questions related to the event, answer her questions as simply as possible — giving enough information to satisfy but not so much as to bring about more distress.
  • Explain events on your child’s level of understanding. Even preschool-aged children realize the concept of good and bad choices. You can relate information, even that of evil behavior, in terms of people making bad choices. Remind your child that God loves all people, and that He wants us to make good and right choices in relationship with Him and to others in society.
  • Offer comforting words from the Bible. Place a bookmark in your child’s own Bible where he can easily read promises that bring assurance to him when he feels unsettled about the unusual events that are happening. If he is unable to read on his own, then you can be ready to read the verses to him as well as explain what they mean. A few comforting passages of Scripture include:
    • “Casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you” (1 Pet. 5:7).
    • “God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble” (Ps. 46:1).
    • “I will not leave you as orphans, I am coming to you” (John 14:18).

The next time you encounter tragedy, trust that God will help you as you seek to bring about understanding and give comfort to your children. Most often, kids find peace in homes where parents rely on God for their strength. Pray, alongside your children, for God to take care of families who are affected by tragedy and to protect your family as well.

Dixie Walker is a freelance writer of Christian family ministry resources. She and her family reside in Nashville, Tenn.

This article appears in full on pages 8-10 of the March 2018 issue of ParentLife. To order the current issue, click here. To subscribe, click here.

Halloween Safety

If you do participate in Halloween, here are some tips we originally published in 2009. Have a good night, whatever you’re doing!

Pumpkin Festival
source: nates_pics

Halloween is an exciting time of year for kids, and to help ensure they have a safe holiday, here are some tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

All Dressed Up

  • Plan costumes that are bright and reflective. Make sure that shoes fit well and that costumes are short enough to prevent tripping, entanglement, or contact with flame.
  • Consider adding reflective tape or striping to costumes and Trick-or-Treat bags for greater visibility.
  • Because masks can limit or block eyesight, consider non-toxic makeup and decorative hats as safer alternatives. Hats should fit properly to prevent them from sliding over eyes.
  • When shopping for costumes, wigs, and accessories look for and purchase those with a label clearly indicating they are flame resistant.
  • If a sword, cane, or stick is a part of your child’s costume, make sure it is not sharp or too long. A child may be easily hurt by these accessories if he stumbles or trips.
  • Obtain flashlights with fresh batteries for all children and their escorts.
  • Teach children how to call 9-1-1 (or their local emergency number) if they have an emergency or become lost.

Carve a Niche

  • Small children should never carve pumpkins. Children can draw a face with markers.  Then parents can do the cutting.
  • Votive candles are safest for candle-lit pumpkins.
  • Candle-lit pumpkins should be placed on a sturdy table, away from curtains and other flammable objects, and should never be left unattended.

Home Safe Home

  • To keep homes safe for visiting trick-or-treaters, remove from the porch and front yard anything a child could trip over such as garden hoses, toys, bikes, and lawn decorations.
  • Parents should check outdoor lights and replace burned-out bulbs.
  • Wet leaves should be swept from sidewalks and steps.
  • Restrain pets so they do not inadvertently jump on or bite a trick-or-treater.

On the Trick-or-Treat Trail

  • A parent or responsible adult should always accompany young children on their neighborhood rounds.
  • If your older children are going alone, plan and review the route that is acceptable to you. Agree on a specific time when they should return home.
  • Only go to homes with a porch light on and never enter a home or car for a treat.
  • Because pedestrian injuries are the most common injuries to children on Halloween, remind Trick-or Treaters:
    1. Stay in a group and communicate where they will be going.
    2. Carry a cell phone for quick communication.
    3. Remain on well-lit streets and always use the sidewalk.
    4. If no sidewalk is available, walk at the far edge of the roadway facing traffic.
    5. Never cut across yards or use alleys.
    6. Only cross the street as a group in established crosswalks (as recognized by local custom). Never cross between parked cars or out driveways.
    7. Don’t assume the right of way. Motorists may have trouble seeing Trick-or-Treaters. Just because one car stops, doesn’t mean others will!
  • Law enforcement authorities should be notified immediately of any suspicious or unlawful activity.

Healthy Halloween

  • A good meal prior to parties and trick-or-treating will discourage youngsters from filling up on Halloween treats.
  • Consider purchasing non-food treats for those who visit your home, such as coloring books or pens and pencils.
  • Wait until children are home to sort and check treats. Though tampering is rare, a responsible adult should closely examine all treats and throw away any spoiled, unwrapped, or suspicious items.
  • Try to ration treats for the days following Halloween.

© 10/09 American Academy of Pediatrics

For even more safety tips, to send these tips to a friend, or to download them in Spanish, visit http://www.aap.org/advocacy/releases/octhalloween.cfm.

Overlooked Safety Traps Can Put Children at Risk

Each year in the U.S., more than 2,000 children under the age of 14 die as a result of a home injury, according to Safe Kids USA, a non-profit organization.

“Parents often underestimate their kids’ abilities and overestimate their intelligence,” says Chrissy Cianflone, Director of Program Operations at Safe Kids USA. “They think, my child’s too smart to do X and they often don’t realize how strong their kids are.”

There are so many things to think about as you safe-proof your home to protect small children that it’s easy to overlook important risks.

Most people are aware of common safety measures like covering your electrical outlets, keeping your child away from hot stoves, and watching them like a hawk as they bathe, but there are other dangers that don’t readily come to mind.

Cords from window treatments – According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, one child a month between the ages of 7 months and 10 years dies from strangulation or is severely injured by near strangulation from the loose strings or cords on window blinds and shades. A window covering advertised as cord-less does not mean that it is truly cord-free.Kenney Manufacturing’s new Truly CordFreeTM Roman Shades use a twist wand to raise and lower the shade and inner mechanisms to eliminate all strings and cords.

Dressers and other tall furniture – Dressers are dangerous because they are heavy, not always well balanced and can be pulled over if a child tries to climb them. An unsteady toddler trying to climb doesn’t understand that a heavy object can topple.  Invest in brackets found at home improvement stores or baby stores like Babies R Us to anchor dressers, TVs, and wall units. Keep heavier items on lower shelves or in lower drawers, and don’t keep remote controls or temptations like candy or toys on top of furniture.

Window screensNever rely on a window screen to keep children safe from an open window.  Screens are for keeping insects out, not for keeping kids in. Invest in heavier child-proof window screens, which cost under $30.  Don’t place furniture by a window, potentially creating a climbing opportunity and the associated risk.

Open medication containers – Be vigilant about your child’s safety away from home.  A risky situation can exist when a child visits a grandparents’ home where pills may be left within their reach. Vitamins and OTC medications can be extremely dangerous to children. Remind family members and caretakers to buy pill bottles with child safety caps and keep all medicines and pills out of your child’s reach, preferably locked up.

Under the kitchen sink – More than 100 children ages 14 and under die each year from unintentional poisoning, according to Safe Kids USA. In addition to household cleaning supplies, pesticides, cosmetics, art supplies, paint products and alcohol are dangerous to children. To avoid accidental poisoning, store these products up high in locked cabinets.  It is a good idea to install a safety latch to keep the doors to under the kitchen sink secured at all times.

Consider addressing these issues in your home as soon as you can to provide optimum safety for your children.

Thank you, Melissa Kay and Market Builders for this pertinent information.

Have you made any safety changes in your home lately?

Prevent Kids’ ID Theft

Crime Scene

Theft of children’s social security numbers is on the rise, warns Linda Criddle, president of the Safe Internet Alliance and one of the nation’s foremost experts on Internet and wireless safety, in a recent blog post. Children’s SSNs are highly prized because they have no credit taint. At least 7% of reported SSN thefts target children — and the actual percentage is probably higher, as the theft is often not detected until the child applies for credit.

The repercussions of a damaged credit score can impact a child for life, Ms. Criddle notes. As child victims of i.d. theft seek loans for college, cars, and homes, they may struggle to qualify and be permanently subject to higher interest and mortgage rates.

Criddle offered the following tips and red flags for parents.

Reduce your child’s risk of financial ID theft

  • Keep Social Security cards locked up. These don’t belong in wallets or loose in your home where others may come across them.
  • Tightly restrict sharing your child’s social security number. You may be asked to provide your child’s SSN in many circumstances, such as to enroll them for a sports team, or at your doctor’s office. However, you do not need to give their SSN — you can show other evidence of age or information that your health care provider needs for billing.
  • Teach your children not to share their SSNs. When they are applying for jobs — at which point they finally do have to share the number —  make sure the employer and company are legitimate so the risk of resale is low.
  • When creating a bank account for your child, set up only a savings account and make sure there is no overdraft protection included.
  • Monitor your child’s credit as you do your own. If you wait until you see a red flag, a lot of damage may have occurred, and often you’ll see no red flag at all until your child seeks credit. Running a credit report does introduce some risk, but you can mitigate this by freezing their credit. This way, if the very act of checking your child’s credit history generated a credit file you have squashed the chances for abuse. Unfreeze their credit when they do seek out a loan.

 

Red flags indicating that your child’s financial ID has been stolen

There is no silver bullet to protect your child from ID theft, but there are some red flags. Be suspicious if:

  • Your child receives any unsolicited credit offers in his or her name, or notices from debt collectors.
  • Someone who has access to the child’s SSN shows sudden evidence of prosperity.
  • You get a notice from the IRS saying the SSN number you used on your tax return (or on their tax return) is a duplicate number.
  • Your insurance company denies a claim for your child because they have already covered the procedure.
  • The bank notifies you when you go to establish a savings account for your child that an account using that SSN already exists.
  • You receive a warrant for a traffic violation for a child without a drivers license.
  • Your child is denied government assistance because records show they are already receiving benefits.
  • You get a request for a job verification when your child has never had a job.

The Identity Theft Resource Center also has some interesting tips and advice on how to take action if your suspet identity theft.

Have you ever considered the possibility of this occurring? Do you and your family have identity theft protection? Please feel free to share tips in the comments!

Photo used with permission of Flickr Creative Commons.

July 4th Safety

June-30_fireworks.jpg

Keep your family safe this summer by following these tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

FIREWORKS SAFETY

  • Fireworks can result in severe burns, scars, and disfigurement that can last a lifetime.
  • Fireworks that are often thought to be safe, such as sparklers, can reach temperatures above 1000 degrees Fahrenheit and can burn users and bystanders.
  • Families should attend community fireworks displays run by professionals rather than using fireworks at home.
  • The AAP recommends prohibiting public sale of all fireworks, including those by mail or the Internet.

BOATING SAFETY

  • Children should wear life jackets at all times when on boats or near bodies of water.
  • Make sure the life jacket is the right size for your child. The jacket should not be loose. It should always be worn as instructed with all straps belted.
  • Blow-up water wings, toys, rafts and air mattresses should not be used as life jackets or personal flotation devices.
  • Adults should wear life jackets for their own protection, and to set a good example.
  • Adolescents and adults should be warned of the dangers of boating when under the influence of alcohol, drugs, and even some prescription medications.

SWIMMING

  • Never swim alone.  Even good swimmers need buddies!
  • A lifeguard (or another adult who knows about water rescue) needs to be watching children whenever they are in or near the water. Younger children should be closely supervised while in or near the water – use “touch supervision,” keeping no more than an arm’s length away.
  • Make sure your child knows never to dive into water except when permitted by an adult who knows the depth of the water and who has checked for underwater objects.
  • Never let your child swim in canals or any fast moving water.
  • Ocean swimming should only be allowed when a lifeguard is on duty.

How do you plan to celebrate the 4th of July this year?

Safety Alert — March Issue!

balloon.jpgA dear ParentLife reader who also is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner reminded us of the safety precautions involving balloons. The March 2010 article “Let’s Have a Party!” mentioned having balloons at a birthday party and sending them home with children as party favors. We thank this reader for updating us and want to remind parents of the dangers that balloons and balloon pieces can cause to young children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Policy Statement (March 2010) has the following to say: “Of all children’s products, latex balloons are the leading cause of choking death, and most of these fatalities are among children younger than 6 years. Uninflated and pieces of broken latex balloons pose a particular hazard because of their ability to conform to the child’s airway and form an airtight seal.” So please guard your young children from balloons.

We apologize to our readers for not thinking through the implications of including balloons at parties. We do want to take this opportunity to get the word out to other readers so they will be aware.

Thank you for your comments! We always want to give the best health and safety information available to our readers.

 

Important Safety Information

Every month in our "Today’s Life" department, Joy Fisher does her best to bring you some of the best, practical, fun product ideas for children and parents.

Mag-Tagz.gif

One of the product ideas in the February 2010 issue of ParentLife is Mag-Tagz™, a line of magnetic necklaces! After the February issue went to the printer, we discovered that Mag-Tagz were not an age-appropriate choice for the children of our audience.

The following disclaimer can be found on the Mag-Tagz™ Web site:

Warning: Mag-tagz Magnetic Beads are not a toy and not intended for children under the age of 13. This jewelry product contains magnets or magnetic components. Magnets sticking together or becoming attached to a metallic object inside the human body can cause serious or fatal injury. Seek immediate medical help if magnets are swallowed or inhaled. Do not use as a nose ring as this would increase the chances of accidental inhalation.

The ParentLife staff apologizes for not catching this sooner!

Preteens & Cell Phone Safety

 

images-3.jpegAfter much soul searching, we bought our preteen son a cell phone for Christmas. We have put all kinds of limits on its use. He has never taken it to school or to church. In fact, we bought it primarily for him to take with him for any overnight trips when he is away from us. Additionally, we blocked use of the Internet and texting on his phone.

Many parents are worried about cell phone use. Stories abound of teens who have gotten in trouble for sexting, sending sexual messages or photos via cell phone. Recently we received these tips for parents who are worried about cell phone issues such as sexting, bullying, and sexual predators.

images.jpeg

  1. Learn the lingo. Learn the pre-established acronyms like LOL, TTYL, and BRB.
  2. Invade their text space. Text your kids constantly so they consider their phone a space where you are present and watching.
  3. Set “no-text” times and other boundaries. Don’t allow kids to text constantly; they shouldn’t text at the dinner table and a curfew should be set. Clearly set boundaries of what is inappropriate.
  4. Limit use. Choose a plan that keeps track of how many texts can be sent and received.
  5. Read text faces. Just like verbal communication, nonverbal cues are important. Text faces help you tell if someone is disturbed or joking.
  6. Monitor other messaging forums.  Sexting doesn’t start and end with texting. Monitor IMs, e-mails, photos, and other digital forums.

For more about preteens and cell phones, read the 9 to 12 Years Growth Spurt "Can I Have a Cell Phone?" in the January 2010 issue of ParentLife.

 At what age will you buy your preteen or teen a phone?

*Information provided by Predicto Mobile.

Keys to Safety

Keeping your infant or toddler safe from harm is a difficult job. Many dangers lurk even in your own home. But there are things you can do to reduce the chances of accidents. Keep the following keys to safety in mind.113_childproofing.jpg

  • Never underestimate your child’s ability. Be safe rather than sorry.
  • Stay one step ahead of your child by thinking ahead to what she might get into next.
  • Emphasize safety in all you do with your child. For example, point out traffic signals that tell you it is safe to cross the street.
  • Be a model of safe behavior. Always wear safety belts, bike helmets, life jackets, etc.
  • Never leave your young child unattended.
  • Take safety precautions in your home. Keep medicines and cleaning products locked away.
  • Make sure activities are age appropriate.
  • Keep emergency phone numbers posted in the home and saved in your cell phone.
  • If your child has an allergy or medical condition, such as asthma, epilepsy, or diabetes, make sure she has a medic-alert bracelet or necklace.

For even more child safety information, be sure to read the Growth Spurts article "Child Safety" in the January 2010 issue of ParentLife.  
 

More Childproofing Tips

In the December 09 issue of ParentLife, Christi McGuire provided some childproofing tips for Christmas. But there is even more you might not have thought of. Consider the following tips.

103_poinsettia.jpg

Poisonous Holiday Plants
Especially during this holiday season, keep the following list of plants out of reach of your baby.

  • Poinsettias — Poinsettias cause little reacion in most people; however, ingestion by small children may cause skin or smouth irritation, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
  • Holly — Ingesting small amounts can cause mild stomach irritation and drowsiness; ingesting large amounts can cause vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, and extreme drowsiness.
  • Mistletoe — Ingesting small amounts may cause mild nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Ingesting large plants may produce serious poisonings.
  • Amaryllis— This plant can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and diarrhea.
  • Christmas trees (pine, fir, spruce) — Most Christmas trees are not poisonous, but sharp needles can cause skin irritation and bleeding or choking.
     

Poison Alert: Toothpaste

104_toothpaste.jpgLook closely at your toothpaste tube and you will see a warning label. Since 1997, the United States Food and Drug Administration has required a poison warning label on all fluoride toothpastes, which contain the active ingredient of Sodium Fluoride, a toxic poison. Although only 1 percent of the toothpaste contains this toxic ingredient, you need to call the poison control center if your baby ingests more than the tiny amount needed for brushing teeth. Toothpaste that is pink, sparkly, and tastes like bubble gum may be easily mistaken for candy, posing a poison hazard for your unsuspecting baby.

 

102_SocketLockit.jpg

Socket-Lockits™
Check out this stylish new way to keep your baby safe! Socket-Lockits help reduce electrical and choking hazards in your home. Their unique patent-pending design incorporates:

  • Self-locking barbs to prevent tiny fingers from pulling covers off
  • A convenient pressure-button release to make removal easy for adults
  • A variety of designs printed with non-toxic ink to match any décor

Visit www.socketlockits.com for more information and to order!

Do you have other childproofing tips related to the Christmas? Share your tips with other ParentLife readers by leaving a comment!