Keep Your Kids Well This Summer

I am not sure how I survived my kids growing up – or, more accurately, how they survived my parenting. As a pediatrician, I saw danger in the mundane: crossing the street, the bathtub, trees, the yard (think poison ivy and bugs), not to mention in the proven: trampolines, pools, monkey bars, etc.

There was a trampoline in our neighborhood, and my husband allowed our kids to go. Since they were half his, I went along with one condition – well, two. They would have to wear helmets when they jumped and their dad had to be there the entire time. We built a pool the year my first son was born, and I had so many alarms set up that a leaf would drop and I would run outside believing he drowned – again.

Dr. Elsa Haddad

Dr. Elsa Haddad

The reason I mention these anecdotes is to let you know that I was a beyond-worried parent when my children were little. But as they grew up, so did I. I now realize that the best way you can keep your kids healthy and safe is by modeling safety and having constant teaching moments.

Also, be aware of what you choose to allow your children to do. If they are going to jump on a trampoline, allow no more than two people on it. It doesn’t matter if there is a surrounding net because most of the injuries occur when children fall on the springs. Always be there when they are jumping.

This season, summer camps are great, but invest a little time researching it. You don’t need to pay a high price if they are just babysitting. If you are going to take them to a pool, lake or ocean regularly, enroll them in swim lessons. They don’t need to be champions but do need to learn how to tread water long enough for someone to help them if they get in trouble. Use sunblock, but more importantly, use common sense. No matter what the bottle says, nothing can protect skin for more than four hours in direct sun, no matter how many times you apply it. Use insect repellent, but for kids younger than 10, spray their clothes before they put them on, not the child.

Limit indoor screen time. Consider having them earn tokens for outside activities. Make each token worth whatever you want it to be. For example, for every hour they are outside (for older kids, you can include chores) they earn a token worth 10 minutes. They can use the token for any screen in the house. Think about keeping the computer or laptop in a common room instead of letting them have a TV or computer in their room. For kids under 15, consider imposing a rule where phones are given to parents before bedtime and retrieved again in the morning.

Children must learn independence in small doses constantly. Allow them to fall and have scrapes. Try to make sure that either you or another caring adult is there when they fall and scrape themselves. Model calmness in the face of minor scrapes; they will imitate you.

One last piece of advice: Keep the following medicines in your medicine cabinet for potential summer injuries: Benadryl liquid, ibuprofen (more effective than acetaminophen for fever and pain), hydrocortisone cream for insect bites, and eardrops to dry ears after swimming (or use a blow dryer on the low setting).

Have fun, be active with your children and hang with them as long as they let you. VT

By DR. ELSA HADDAD, Special Contributor