The new CPR guidelines are out with all sorts of fanfare and media coverage. Great news and lots of new research and discussion over a critical tool that could save some of the 250,000 people who die of heart disease each year. But why not the same media focus on preventing the deaths in the first place? How about this little-seen article with the staggering headline: Analyses: Heart Attack rates fall 17% after smokingbans enacted. (that was within one year and only with public smoking bans). http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-09-21-smoking-bans_N.htm
You all know my feelings about CPR – everyone should learn CPR, period. I think we need a serious re-think on our priorities though, especially when there is limited funding everywhere. Educating and preventing problems isn’t glamorous. It’s like being a parent – a long-term commitment, frequently involving nudging unwilling recipients, not always fun, but with real, positive, long-term outcomes. Plenty of research to support this very unglamorous, non-headline-grabbing methodology. Educate boys and girl sand civil war decreases, poverty levels drop, economic prosperity increases.
What would happen if teaching water safety and swimming to children were mandatory? Would the death rates from drowning drop 17% or more in a year? I think so. CPR is a crucial tool to save a life, but shouldn’t our focus be on not needing the tool in the firstplace?
‘Do what I say, not what I do’. Ever hear that one? No truer words were ever spoken and no harder rule was ever followed. I loathe hypocrites, but as a mom it seems that too many of my days are full of hypocrisy. Sometimes it’s little stuff – like the fact that I must have a small square of dark chocolate after lunch every day but only put candy in my kid’s lunch on Fridays. Sometimes it’s big stuff – like speaking disrespectfully to your child and then expecting them to speak respectfully to you. We all do it, it’s a hard habit to break or to recognize, but make no mistake, you are being watched like a hawk every minute of every day by your children for discrepancies between what you tell your kids to do and what you do.
What big things do you really need to focus on changing because they are sending potentially dangerous messages to your kids? One of my long-term friends realized when her kids started swimming lessons that she couldn’t insist they learn an important life skill if she was terrified of the water, she knew they’d pick up on that. She encouraged them in their swimming, but she also signed up for adult swim classes. I still remember the exultant e-mail from Hawaii when she was able to go snorkeling off a boat – and her boys are all like fish now. How you react in a crisis? Do you ignore it? Step in and offer to help? Turn green at the sight of blood? Say ‘I’m sure someone will call 911” instead of reaching for your phone? Do you want your children to be safe and responsible? To teach your future grandchildren the same lessons? Ask yourself the hard question, ‘What kind of adult do I want my child to become”, and then look in the mirror and make sure that same kind of person is looking back at you. What would you change?
The Park District brochure arrived the other day and I immediately signed my 6- and 8-year olds up for the fantastic American Red Cross ‘Home Alone’ and ‘Basic First Aid for Children’ classes. They are single 1 1/2 hour classes and the kids enjoy them. I felt a wee twinge of guilt the first year when I dropped off my then 6-year old son, feeling like I should announce that I wasn’t actually going to leave him alone until he was older and spending even more time reassuring him that I had no intention of leaving him alone until he was older. BUT, I explained that the reason for taking the classes was that it would give him more confidence and the skills to deal with a crisis if it did happen. I explained that I’ve been certified in CPR and First Aid almost continuously since I was 16. Fortunately I’ve never had to do anything but address broken bones, minor head injuries and lots of hurt feelings, but even then I didn’t panic because I’d been trained over and over and over again, so reaction becomes automatic.
Why start kids at the age of 6 learning about being home alone and basic First Aid? First, as a single mom, what if something happens to me and the kids need to react? Even if they only remain calm enough to call 911, at least I know they will be found and cared for by emergency services. Same logic holds for any family situation. What if they are with a babysitter? Grandma? At a friend’s house? Do they know what to do? Second, learning basic First Aid helps them to understand that blood does not always equal death – they know to apply pressure and get help. Third, annual repetition of the class will teach the appropriate reaction to an accident and help them identify dangers from a respected authority figure (a welcome break from mom droning on).
Knowledge is power. Give your kids the right kind of power, the power to be safe and to recognize danger – contact your American Red Cross today and enroll your kids in Basic First Aid and Home Alone.
And parents – I’ve learned, if you don’t panic at the blood streaming down their face, your kids won’t panic either – think about signing yourself up as well.
We sat around the kitchen table recently listening to my borrowed teenager recount his scars. It took an hour. My personal favorite was how he rode his bike, while wearing his rollerblades, with no brakes, down a very steep and winding road that I know is heavily trafficked by very fast drivers. And I remembered, again, how his mother, my business partner and close friend, told me of a study which showed that teenage boys go through a period where they are incapable of experiencing fear. They can not recognize the emotion of fear in others, they do not feel fear themselves. I remember my own younger brothers and the exploits they got up to – how high a roof can I jump off safely? How many donuts can we spin in a car after an ice storm? And how much fun was skitching – holding onto a car while on a skateboard or sliding on the ice. Having been a cautious (female) child who ‘got’ the whole concept of cause and effect verbally without needing to experiment, I listened with dread, knowing that my own 8-year old son would undoubtedly be trying feats of daring and experimentation once he hit the teen years.
So, what is a parent to do? I’m guessing that fighting what seems to be a ‘survival of the fittest’ developmental phase is pretty pointless, so how about equipping our kids with life-saving skills? When they are out with their friends doing things that would turn our hair white and shorten our own lifespan by a decade if we knew the full details (and how much of your teenage years did your parents really know about so don’t think it’s not happening). You’ve been teaching them right and wrong and safety since birth, but to get them ready to survive the teenage years with only scars, enroll them in a CPR and First Aid course. Think about those Outward Bound or survival courses, Scouting, or finding a like-minded adventurous mentor that can teach them the smart way while maintaining the cool quotient. Plus, I’ll be sticking with the ‘call anytime, day or night and I’ll pick you up, no questions asked’ policy. Or maybe I’ll just send my son to my friend when he’s a teenager!