This may seem counterintuitive for a parent to even consider, but how much safety is too much? Where do we draw the line between keeping our kids safe and giving them the autonomy to explore?
The truth is, we can do both.
Safety and freedom are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are both essential to creating an environment in which children thrive.
Injury prevention is not about watching your children every minute of the day, or wrapping them in bubble wrap to stay safe. In fact, it's the opposite. Injury prevention is about creating an environment where kids can explore and take chances while minimizing the serious injuries and deaths that we can predict and prevent.
We know it works. In the last 30 years, a combination of education, improved technology and behavior change has led to a 55 percent decrease in the U.S. childhood death rate from preventable injuries.
Still, preventable injuries remain the leading cause of death for children in the United States. I'm not talking about skinned knees, bruised shins or scraped elbows. Those are the telltale signs of a curious child seeking adventure, and we love that. I'm talking about more serious injuries and deaths that don't have to happen.
Every year, more than one million children around the world die of a preventable injury. Millions more are injured in ways that can affect them for a lifetime. These statistics represent tragedies for families and communities that happen because parents aren't getting the information and the resources they need to create an environment where their kids can take chances safely.
Becca and Jason Cunningham from Vancouver, Washington have three young kids, who were all raised to embrace adventure, explore nature and take chances. One day when their 3-year-old son, Thomas, was in his room for a nap, he decided he wasn't tired. He got up to explore and fell out the third story window, landing on his head. Thomas fortunately survived the fall, but his life and the lives of his family will never be the same.
"A nine dollar window guard," said Jason, a firefighter. "That's all it would have taken to protect my son. And I didn't even think about it."
As parents, it's up to us to decide where to draw the line in terms of safety. And it's different for each and every person. Parenting is very personal. No two kids are alike, and we want parents to trust their instincts. But parents need the right information so they know the risks and how to take the precautions that make the most sense.
For instance, if parents give their kids the freedom to walk to school on their own, terrific. But let's make sure they've been taught to look left, right, left and cross at the crosswalk.
Injury prevention matters: Window guards, car and booster seats, sports safety clinics, the importance of practicing a fire escape plan are just a few small things that can make a huge difference.
Now, I'm a realist. I know there are going to be things that will happen that will keep kids from reaching their potential - but let's not make it an injury that is preventable.
Parents should not have to choose between keeping their kids safe and inspiring their kids to explore, discover and take chances. There's plenty of room in the world for both.
Kate Carr is president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide, a global non-profit dedicated to preventing childhood injury. We're proud to have Johnson & Johnson as our founding sponsor and a supporter of Safe Kids Day 2014, an awareness and fundraising campaign to celebrate kids, prevent injuries and save lives. Learn more and get involved at www.safekids.org/skd.
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