Holiday Safety for Families
Slow down, pay attention to keep the season bright
by Alice E. Workman
resents. Caroling. Family feasts. Glittering lights. These are just a few of the wonderful things that come to mind when we think of the holidays. Few of us stop to think of the dangers that the season brings, but they are there.
When we take the time to think about the heavy traffic, harried shoppers and fragile ornaments that are a part of our culture this time of year we begin to realize that safety is something that cannot be taken for granted. With a little planning and some extra care, however, the season can be a safe and enjoyable one.
Start your planning by reading through these tips and taking notes on those that apply to you and your family. Then write down any additional thoughts you have, and gather the family together to make a plan. It won't take long, and the extra peace of mind and safety that it brings will be well worth the effort.
The closer we get to Christmas, the heavier the traffic gets. Roads are often slippery and winter weather can make visibility poor. Add to this that everyone is in even more of a hurry than usual and accidents are sure to happen. Lower your risks by following these safety tips and using common sense:
- Plan to give yourself extra time on the road. Avoid "squeezing in" shopping while rushing between meetings, taking kids to soccer practice or on your lunch hour if possible. Offer to trade babysitting with another parent to give yourself time to shop without the kids and plan for extra travel time.
- Take it slow. The minute you save by speeding or rushing through a light as it turns red could cost you your life. It's not worth it.
- Stay alert. Avoid distractions, especially use of cell phones, as you are driving. It only takes a split second for an accident to happen, and injuries can last a lifetime. Never assume the other driver will do what he should do--or what you think he will do. Always be prepared to act quickly should someone run a light or suddenly pull out in front of you. Leave plenty of room between your car and the one in front of you. Don't worry if cars are cutting in front of you; you won't lose more than a second or two of time and your safety is well worth it.
- Pull over to look at light displays; don't just slow down.
- Keep a first aid kit in the car along with some non-perishable snacks, in case you get stuck in traffic for a long period.
- Avoid traffic altogether by doing some or all of your shopping through catalogs or online. You will also save time, gas and energy that could be used elsewhere.
As with all else, go in with a plan:
- When shopping with family or friends, especially in a crowded mall, decide ahead of time where you will meet if you are separated. Teach younger children what you want them to do if they cannot find you: Look for someone with a name badge and give them your parent's name or stand still and wait for the parent to find you. Be sure they know to never go anywhere alone (such as a back office) with a stranger, or to accept food or candy from them--name tag or not. Briefly review the plan and ask the children to repeat it back to you before entering the store or mall. Do this on EACH visit.
- When riding escalators, watch for loose items, such as shoelaces & scarves that can get caught. It's not uncommon for little fingers to get stuck, either, so insist that children hold on to the handrail facing forward. YOU follow behind, so you can easily see them. If you are overloaded with packages, skip the escalator altogether and go for the elevator. Better yet, plan to shop in small doses to save yourself--and your child--from getting overloaded, overtired and overstressed.
- When buying for children, be sure to get toys that are age appropriate. A "big kid" toy may be enticing to a small child, but it may also have sharp edges or small parts that would be dangerous.
While you're out shopping, buy a smoke detector for yourself, and one for a friend, along with a set of batteries. If a fire occurs in your home, having a working smoke alarm can reduce the risk of dying by 41% (NFPA Smoke Alarm report). Buy a fire extinguisher, too, if you don't have one. Christmas trees and decorative candles are fire hazards, causing hundreds of deaths each year. Losing a home and/or loved ones is no way to spend the holidays.
- Cook food thoroughly, and throw away any perishable foods that have been out for more than 2 hours. Keep it hot or cold; warm food breeds bacteria.
- If you have small children, you will not only need to be sure your own decorations are child-safe, but also be aware of hazards that may exist in any homes you visit for the holidays. Conversely, if you have no small children in your home, but are expecting visitors who do have small children, you need to prepare.
- Don't leave toxic cleaners out with young children around--even for a moment. Most parents keep their cleaners out of reach when not in use, but children can be poisoned in the moment it takes for you to answer the phone in the middle of cleaning. Don't take a chance. Keep your eye on the cleaner at all times, and put away promptly after use. Choosing less-toxic cleaners is always a good idea as they are safer for children AND adults.
- Watch out for nuts, grapes, small candies, ornaments or other items that may be swallowed whole. Choking is a common hazard for young children any time of year, and more so at Christmas when adults are often busy and supervision isn't as close. Move fragile ornaments to the top of the tree, out of reach (or leave them off the tree altogether), and consider putting the entire tree inside a playpen. Poinsettias and mistletoe berries are poisonous, so plan accordingly. Watch out, too, for tablecloths that may be pulled off, bringing dishes and other items with it. Avoid the use of candles (unless placed high and closely supervised or used unlit) and always turn decorative lights off when leaving the house.
- Put guest's purses in a locked room or other out-of-reach area. It's not unheard of for a child to be poisoned by medications found in Grandma's purse, and there may be other potentially harmful items inside.
- Plastic shopping bags and shrink-wrapping from toys can cause suffocation, especially for babies. Be sure that the children are closely supervised at all times, and don't get forgotten in the middle of all the excitement.
We would all prefer to spend our time listening to carols and wrapping gifts and not worry about problems that might arise. However, it's better to start the season by planning and taking as many prevention measures as possible, then you can enjoy a day of creating pleasant memories, instead of dealing with disasters that will forever link the day with thoughts of tragedy.
Alice E. Workman is the mother of three, a writer and homeschooler. She is the Editor of Love of Learning, a free email newsletter for parents and homeschoolers. Information and back issues of Love of Learning can be found at http://edsupply.hypermart.net