We all know how to treat a bee sting and that we should reapply sunscreen on our kids every two hours or after swimming (that’s hard when they swim all day at the pool!), but how far are your kids allowed to ride their bikes this summer? Are they allowed to swim in your pool when you’re at work? Have you created a family preparedness plan in case of an emergency? Keep your family happy, healthy and safe this summer break and know what to do in a wide range of scenarios.
According to the most recent U.S. Census report, approximately one-fifth of U.S. children ages 5 – 14 are left home alone on a regular basis. There’s no state law that sets an age limit for leaving children home alone, so it’s up to you to use good judgment and determine when your child is ready for going a few hours without Mom or Dad around.
Northern Kentucky mom Erin Rauf says, “I left both boys home alone at age 12. I decided they were ready to be alone once they understood the rules: do not answer the door, don’t tell anyone that they’re home alone and don’t have friends over. Do call me with any questions or concerns and call 911 in an emergency.”
Your best bet? Start small — leave the kids alone while you run a quick errand, and then work your way up to longer outings.
KEY: It’s also a great idea to have friends in your neighborhood who know your home situation and that kids are there by themselves.
Expanding their Range
The phrase “free-range kids” has been tossed about a lot lately with plenty of parents arguing against the idea that scary monsters lurk around every corner. Kids need freedom to explore, say proponents of the movement, especially when you consider the amount of time they spend in front of a TV, computer screen or cell phone.
Extra freedoms can be available, thanks to technology. When your tween hops on his bike and heads to his best friend’s house two neighborhoods over, you can track his safe arrival on your GPS “Find Friends” app if he takes his phone with him. Apps can be used to your advantage and require check-ins at regular intervals. Summer becomes an opportunity to see how kids handle extra responsibilities.
Guns, ATV’s, Etc.
Responsible gun owners know to store guns in a locked and secure location when children are around, but be alert if you don’t know the parents where your child is hanging out. It’s imperative that you are firm with your children: if they see a gun, don’t touch it, never pick it up and alert an adult. You’re also wise to tuck away keys to tempting items like dirt bikes, ATVs and so on.
Don’t forget about locking up medications. More than 60,000 children are brought to the ER each year for accidental intake of medicine, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). And the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that most kids use drugs for the first time in their teens — just more than half (54.1 percent) of the nearly 2.8 million people who tried drugs for the first time in 2013 were teenagers.
In Northern Kentucky, parents can dispose of old or unused medications at several drug disposal locations, according to the Northern Kentucky Health Department. Find the one nearest you at nkyhealth.org. Or visit rxdrugdropbox.org to find a location near you where you can safely dispose of old medications. And make sure you know the Poison Control Center’s number: 800-222-1222.
According to the CDC, approximately 20 percent of drowning deaths are children ages 14 and younger. And for each child who dies from drowning, another five children are taken to the ER for “nonfatal submersion injuries.”
It’s best to set the rules of the pool now. Decide when kids are allowed to go swimming and be firm on always having an adult or lifeguard present. What if your teen is home watching younger siblings? Is it OK to go swimming then? What about your neighbor’s pool — do they have a padlock on their pool gate? And what are their rules for swimming?
Pool Safely (poolsafely.gov) offers tips to keep kids safe when it comes to hanging poolside:
- Never leave a child unattended
- Keep a phone close by
- Look in the pool first if a child is missing
- Learn CPR for children and adults
- Install a four-foot fence around the pool with self-closing and latching gates, along with gate alarms
- Consider door alarms and window guards on doors and windows facing the pool
- Make sure drain covers are compliant
When it comes to swimming, preparation is best. Swim lessons (sidebar) are available year-round at a number of facilities, and many programs offer lessons to even the youngest of swimmers.
Creating an Emergency Plan
We hear stories all the time of heroic toddlers who call 911 in an emergency and end up saving their parent’s or sibling’s life. But those kids were taught to recognize a bad situation and to call 911, so there’s no reason your child can’t be taught, too!
It can be tough to talk to little ones about being prepared for emergencies without scaring them, but it’s all about providing knowledge and reassurance.
Jane Elliott, a health educator for the Greater Cincinnati/Ohio River Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross, suggests that parents first talk about what makes for an emergency.
“Remind kids that these things almost never happen,” she says, adding that parents should explain to children that they’re talking about emergencies “just in case.” Elliott says to teach kids to always find an adult if they can, even if that’s calling the adult on the other end of 911. Keep a first aid kit and show kids what it looks like, and how all the individual items inside are used.
The American Red Cross provides a host of classes for both adults and kids, including baby-sitting preparedness, swim lessons, even pediatric and infant CPR at local Babies R Us stores. Blended learning options are available, where participants take part of the course online, and part on site. Head to redcross.org to enter your zip code and find available classes near you.
Your Family Plan
Whether you’re traveling this summer or staying home, having a family plan in place is essential in the event of an emergency.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers a downloadable guide that lets parents list all the important details that everyone from a sitter to a paramedic might need to know, including medication and allergy information, emergency contact phone numbers, and neighborhood meeting places.
Additionally, at ready.gov/kids, access an Emergency Supplies List which details exactly what you need to have on hand in the event of a weather-related or other kind of emergency. FEMA suggest having enough supplies to last for three days and to keep a large kit at home and a smaller portable kit in your car or at your workplace.
Youth Swim Lessons
Hubbard Swim School at Kids First Sports Center
7900 E Kemper Road | 513-530-0123 | hubbardswim.com
Bear Paddle Swim School
9376 Mason Montgomery Road, Mason | 513-285-8855 | bearpaddle.com
Goldfish Swim School (opening soon!)
7058 Ridgetop Drive, West Chester | 513-857-1700 | westchester.goldfishswimschool.com
YMCA of Greater Cincinnati
Multiple locations | myy.org
Greater Cincinnati/Ohio River Valley Chapter of the American Red Cross
Multiple Locations | 513-579-3000 | redcross.org/local/cincinnati-dayton
Campus Recreation Center at the University of Cincinnati
2820 Bearcat Way | 513-556-0671 | uc.edu/campusrec/programs/aquatics.html
Mercy Health Plex
Queen City: 513-389-5498
Infant Swim Resource
Multiple locations | infantswim.com
8485 Ridge Road | 513-761-7500 | mayersonjcc.org
Cincinnati Sports Club
3950 Red Bank Road | 513-527-4000 | cincinnatisportsclub.com
Lori’s H20 Skills
5610 Wolfpen Pleasant Hill Road, Milford | 513-515-8468 | lorish20skills.com
Cincinnati Recreation Commission
Multiple locations | cincinnati-oh.gov/recreation
Guest author, Sarah Blankenship, is an editorial intern for this publication.