It starts before our kids are born when we limit our tuna fish sandwiches to one a week and doesn’t end until … ever, I think. Keeping our children safe is job No. 1 for mom and dad. Yes, we’re supposed to teach them to read, sing, love animals and all the rest, but the most important gift we give our children is a healthy and safe childhood. In today’s world, where there seem to be weekly blasts on the news about lead in imported toys, parents can feel powerless to prevent risks to their kids Ã¢â‚¬â€ and that’s even before they get a driver’s license!
TodayÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Questions & Parents feature, or Q&P for short, is with Irvington resident Jamie Schaefer-Wilson. Jamie is a child safety expert, author and consultant at Consumer Reports magazine in Yonkers. She has a long history of advocating in a wide variety of ways to keep kids safe. She co-wrote “The Baby Rules: The Insider’s Guide to Raising Your Parents,” a safety manual for parents with a humorous touch. She serves on several juvenile products committees for the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM International), where she advocates for safer juvenile product standards. She works with the nonprofit Kids and Cars, which is pushing for a rear visibility performance standard to prevent backovers. She has contributed to a safety column on iVillage.com and is the author of “Safety 1stÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Essential Home & Travel Childproofing Guide.” She’s also written the upcoming “The Consumer Reports Guide to Childproofing & Safety: Tips to Protect your Baby and Child from Injury at Home and on the Go,” scheduled for publication in May. In between being a safety guru, Jamie is also busy as the mother of Cydney and Samantha.
P: It isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t necessarily a China problem, it is a manufacturer problem. We need better quality control, tougher import inspections and more attention to potential design flaws. Some of these problems are predictable, therefore they are preventable. There have been so many problems brought to the forefront lately from lead paint to small parts detaching and magnets falling out of toys. While we should be able to trust the toys in the marketplace, I think we all need to be tougher consumers and decide if we want to stay away from painted toys, jewelry and magnets.
Q: When the first Mattel recall was announced on Aug. 1, you feared that your child had a defective Elmo toy. Can you describe what that experience was like?
P: It was scary. It was a toy my daughter was playing with every day. It has a microphone that naturally she was always putting in her mouth and we didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know which portion of the toy contained the lead-based paint. I recognized the photo of the toy instantly and this particular toy was shown on several news reports. I checked the model number and was relieved that mine was purchased before the batch that had lead-based paint.
Q: Is all this focus on toys from China potentially distracting our attention from more dangerous, or even deadly, hazards?
P: No. I think people are looking more stringently at many more products now. We need to continue down this path and do a lot more questioning about all products Ã¢â‚¬â€ no matter where they are made.
Q: What are some of the hidden hazards we all have around our homes that we don’t think about?
P: We sometimes tend to overlook everyday items and things we do everyday. Take the kitchen. It is the room we are in most frequently. There are several dangers from the hot oven, water boiling on the stove or even the dishwasher. The dishwasher seems benign once the knives and forks are removed, but it is filled with spikes and if a child falls they will fall face first. Also, tipping hazards: Children tend to open several drawers at one time, sometimes causing furniture to tip onto them. It is very simple to install a tip resistant strap to furniture, and this should be installed to TV stands as well as book cases, armoires and dressers. Another danger is water hazards. Drownings are a leading cause of death every year. When your child is in the bath you need to keep him or her within arm’s reach at all times. It only takes a second for something to go wrong. The same is true of a swimming pool. Many children often slip outside unnoticed and you may not hear them fall into the pool.
Q: What are some safety tips you can share based on your own family?
P: Gates and safety locks: Those are two very important items that you should purchase and use. My 2-year-old wants to follow me everywhere and open every drawer. I feel I need eyes in the back of my head. My first daughter wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t as daring, but my second daughter wants to experiment with everything. I find it easier to remove and safeguard the hazards rather than take a chance. You can remove gates and locks when they are older, but the scar from an injury will be permanent.
Q: Can you tell me about any close calls you might have had?
P: When my 6-year-old was younger, we were at a restaurant and they had given us a folding high chair. The waiter opened it and we put our daughter inside, but it started to collapse the moment we placed her in the high chair. My daughter was screaming. I tried grabbing her, but she was stuck. My husband and I were pulling her and the waiter was trying to open the chair. It was very scary. Needless to say, I always check that high chairs are fully opened and locked and I now know never to take for granted that someone else may have done taken these measures.
Q: New moms often buy books on babyproofing, but what about parents of older kids? What safety worries are out there when your child reaches grade school, middle school and beyond?
P: Safety issues just change and expand as your child gets older. Child passenger safety is always at the forefront. Keeping your child in the right child-restraint seat until he or she is the right height, weight and age is one of the most important things you can do for your child. As they get older you need to focus on bicycle safety/helmet safety and stranger danger as well.
Q: What can you do if a fellow parent doesn’t take safety as seriously as you do? What if, for example, a mom doesn’t think about buckling a child into a safety seat because it’s “only a few blocks” or is casual about other risks?
P: I have had parents tell me just that: “Oh, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s only a few blocks.Ã¢â‚¬? Most vehicle crashes happen within a few blocks of our homes since it is where we spend the most time. Some parents donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t like to hear the possibilities of what could happen and others ask a lot of questions. Questions are a great Ã¢â‚¬â€ they can save a life. If another mother offers to pick up my daughter, I always ask what type of car seat she has, and many times I end up installing my seat in her vehicle. I am happy to take the few minutes and do it.
Q: It seems to me the best way to keep a child safe might be to instill a sense of caution in the child. What advice do you have for doing that without turning your kid into a nervous nelly?
P: Caution is good, but youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re right, you donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to overdo it. So much of this is in your hands. Your child doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t need to know everything about the car seat they are in Ã¢â‚¬â€ just that they need to be in it. I often hear that a child canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t wait to get to a booster seat or get out of one. Most children wouldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even know that there is a day that they wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t need the booster seat Ã¢â‚¬â€ we instill this in them. You handle the safety and let them be a kid. YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll feel more at ease about it. Every mom only wants what is best for her children.
Thank you very much to Jamie for sharing her knowledge by doing a Q&P! If you would like to be featured, or you know any parents who have expertise to share, please comment here on the blog or send me e-mail at email@example.com.
And, in case you missed them, here are links to earlier Q&P features. There are interviews with more than a dozen moms and dads, including a dog trainer dad, financial planner mom, writer mom, mathematician mom, baker mom, drug counselor mom and pediatric dentist mom.
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