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?
Concerns about children’s obesity seem to be on everyone’s mind these days. Kudos to First Lady Michelle Obama for making it ‘her’ issue and walking the talk with her White House garden and obviously healthy/active girls! There was also a great article in the Pediatric Safety blog about the latest research on how to curb obesity in children. (http://www.pediatricsafety.net/index.php?s=obesity). Easier than you’d think – eat with your family, decrease TV time, get more sleep. And of course all of those things have knock-on effects as well. Loads of research showing that kids who eat with their families at least a few meals a week are less likely to get into drugs/alcohol. Less TV and more sleep – better performance in school. I read a study recently that showed that if kids had 45 minutes of active time during the school day (gym or recess), the incidence of ‘disruptive/bad’ behavior dropped by 60%.
Like most things with raising kids, we’re all trying our best, but some things are easier than others. For me – eating with family – easy, I love my food and dinner is the only time I get to sit down, not about to give that one up! Early bedtime – slam dunk – after 7pm my parenting abilities slide rapidly into the negative numbers, best to have them safely tucked in before my patience gives way completely. Other stuff – not so easy. I almost lost it completely when someone gave my son a tadpole. I really thought that adding one more living creature to my list of responsibilities would be the straw that broke the camel’s back. I tried, and I did feel a wee bit of guilt when it didn’t develop and died, but in my life, science experiments need to happen without my input.
The research does remind me that I need to I stick to that one hour per day of electronic time for kids. Too easy to flick a switch to get silence when I need to do a work call, tackle that never-ending mountain of paperwork or it’s just been a long winter. That said, better to flick the switch some days and give the kids a treat than lose it – after all parenting is a long-haul occupation, best to know when to stand on principle and when the principle comes at too high of a personal cost!
Twice last weekend I was reminded of how confident 4-year olds are, and how their confidence does not always match their skill level. 4-year old and 2-year old siblings drowned in Florida last weekend. The details are, unfortunately, typical – they were only out of sight for a few minutes, an unfenced swimming pool, distracted adults. It can happen to the most vigilant parent (except maybe the unfenced pool). What caught my attention was the conjecture that the 2-year old had fallen in and the 4-year old had tried to save the younger child and also drowned. The next day I was on the phone with my business partner, Kerry. She had overheard her 4-year old earnestly explaining to her 2-year old that as soon as the summer arrived she would teach her to swim. She would take her younger sister down to the pool with no floaties, help her into the water and teach her, since she was such a good swimmer herself and wanted to teach her younger sister.
Cringing yet? Just about turned Kerry’s hair white and made me feel sick. My children are now 6 and 8. I’ve watched how my children learn, seen how proud they are of each milestone – whether it is walking, catching a ball, 100% on a spelling test, or swimming. I’ve seen how the younger emulates and worships the older (when she’s not beating on him, of course), and on good days I’ve seen the older teaching the younger. My 8-year old boy is half-dolphin, he was swimming at 3. Wait, let me re-phrase that….when he was 3 he could swim short distances underwater by himself with me hovering very close by. He could jump into the pool if he knew I was there to grab him. He is still a confident and strong swimmer but not old enough to swim with no supervision (my benchmark is mastery of the butterfly stroke and half-hour of laps before I will reach any comfort level). My 6-year old daughter was a bit more circumspect, her confidence finally rose to her skill level just a few months ago and she is now doing the underwater paddle very well. Could my confident 8-year old save his 6-year old sister? Emphatically NO. At 4? No way. Could any child save another? I’ve heard stories, but unfortunately for every heroic rescue there are dozens more cases where both children drown.
Teach your children to always call for help first if they see another child in trouble. Let them know they won’t get in trouble for reporting danger, even if they were someplace they shouldn’t be. It’s a constant balance not crushing their enthusiasm and pride in their accomplishments, but with pools and toddlers, it’s a matter of life and death.
Who has lost track of your child for a minute? A few minutes? Come on, I know I’m not the only one who has had that shot of pure panic at Target when one kid was begging for a toy and the other decided to play hide-and-seek under the clothing racks. Or how about at the airport when you are scanning the carousel for your luggage and suddenly realized your kids aren’t right next to you? At the playground? In a museum? The zoo? The list is endless but fortunately in most of those places, you and your child will be safely reunited within seconds, or at least in a few minutes with the help of police/store intercom/helpful strangers.
Unfortunately, there are the worst cases – where your child’s life is in danger because you lost track of them for a few precious minutes. We hear terrifying stories of abductions that make us more vigilant, but do you know the most dangerous place to lose track of your child? Near water. A new study by Ruth Brenner in Pediatrics, the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, emphasizes once again that increased supervision of children while around water is needed to prevent drowning – a leading cause of injury-related death in children. I love the water. My kids love the water. Our best time spent together often involves being in or around water – pools, ocean, lakes, Chicago’s Millenium Fountain – but I know that is also one place where I can’t afford to lose track of them for even 2 minutes. I’ll teach my kids water safety, I’ll make sure they are strong swimmers, I’m certified in CPR – but part of water safety is knowing that I need to watch them, constantly.
Mary Ann Downing of Pool Safety Solutions posted a great technique for keeping kids safe at backyard pools. Check out http://www.ehow.com/how_5884519_use-safer-backyard-pool-event.html?shared=true. Basically, each responsible adult takes the ‘tag’ and spends 10 minutes watching all the kids near and in the pool. When the 10 minutes is up they ‘tag’ another adult who then spends 10 minutes. What I love about this is that it deals with a bunch of safety problems in one easy step. First, kids need constant supervision when they are in the pool and it’s virtually impossible for a parent to keep an eye on one child, much less 2, 3 or more for the length of an afternoon pool party. Second, am I the only parent who craves adult conversation? This way I’d get time to have a good catch-up with friends while knowing my kids are safe, it’s kind of like being a designated driver but I can still join the party except for short stints when I’m ‘it’. Third, ever noticed how lifeguards rotate out of their stations after a fairly short period of time? Humans can’t focus on anything effectively for very long – we need to walk around, look at something different – even the most diligent parent would be hard-pressed to stare diligently at the pool for a whole afternoon while you hear laughter, juicy stories, smell the BBQ, or just need to grab a cold drink or more sunscreen. Next time you’re at the pool with a friend, remember, Tag, you’re it!
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!