Thursday, August 20, 2009

A Parent’s No.1 Fear

This is really a no-brainer, yet parents don’t think in these terms in a front-of-mind sort of way; yet, we’re supremely and eternally aware in a subconscious way regarding what can happen to our kids. The parents’ number one fear is a maiming or fatal illness or injury to their children.

Most Australian mums and dads have heard of Sophie Delezio. In 2003 she was burned over 85 percent of her body in a childcare incident and in 2006 she was hit by a car when being pushed across a pedestrian crossing by a caregiver.[1] Both times she could have easily died. These were both close calls.

And we ourselves, as parents, know about those close calls. How many of us have narrowly missed potentially fatal car accidents, or perhaps even been involved directly in car roll-overs, T-bones or head-ons—and survived? The average adult injures themselves once or twice a month. For children it’s actually about 25 times a month.

It’s true; we all survive on way too much luck! When talking to some people with paraplegia recently they confirmed to me... they thought too, ‘It’s never going to happen to me.’ Theirs were life-changing injuries.

The parents’ number one fear is that phone call or knock at the door ‘at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.’[2] It’s the police officer standing there or perhaps even a doctor at his or her surgery, or in a hospital. It’s never seeing their children again—it’s never saying goodbye; and who could?!

The Problem – For Us and Our Kids

Did you know? Rushing, frustration, fatigue and complacency can cause or contribute to these critical errors...

1. The eyes not on the task;

2. The mind not aware of the environment around us or task at hand;

3. Putting ourselves in harm’s way; or,

4. Loss of balance.[3]

We’ve just created the circumstances for injury and only “luck” stands between.

Why do most accidents happen? We get into this autopilot behaviour after more than a few repetitions of any activity—we stop paying attention to the things that might hurt us.

One Possible Solution that could Help – Teaching Safety

We must somehow instil in our kids some basic safety skills of self-awareness and increase their environmental-awareness (not the ‘greeny’ type of ‘environment’). We can’t underwrite their entire lives or guarantee their safety but we can actually do a lot to teach our kids important life messages to protect their safety.

Getting our kids to understand how important it is to keep their eyes and mind on the task and their environment, watching like hawks, is not easy. Perhaps it’s easier for the younger ones (i.e. 2–6 years) to model the behaviour and actually get them to do it. For instance, when crossing roads:

1. Force them to look ultra-carefully.

2. Reinforce in them a clear mind to look for and be cognisant of hazards.

3. Play them “what-if” scenarios. Test them to teach them.

Of course, supervision is probably the number one thing we can do to protect our kids’ safety during their pre-school years.

For older kids (7–14 years) get into their psyches a little more explaining the “why’s” and play out in them scenarios to encourage the formation of hazard awareness. The ability to foresee dangerous events can be learned.

For us as parents, we also need to be aware of our kids’ No.1 fear. That is loss of you, their parent(s). This is even more reason to keep:

1. Our eyes on task.

2. Our mind on task.

3. Out of the line-of-fire.

4. Balanced—ensuring footing and stability.

Let’s not choose “luck” as the predominate safety choice, that ‘wing-and-a-prayer’ life. We never know when our luck will run out and find the consequences are too difficult for us to bear.

One close call is one too many, yet they’ll always be there to remind us how “lucky” most of us are. Let’s just not push our luck.

[2] Google the “Sunscreen Song.”

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