Stranger Danger? Wise Words from a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit Nurse

Hey Readers — Short, sweet and safe. Wise words lifted from a comment that just landed here:

“Dear Free- Range Kids: [I am a] Peds ICU nurse and can tell you that the real dangers are overlooked.    Lock your second story windows, make sure your kids understand car and bike safety.  Model safe behavior.  Don’t talk and text while driving. It really is simple.  Also, I can tell you that I have NEVER once taken care of a kid who was assaulted by a stranger.  I have taken care of MANY who have been critically injured by a family member.”

24 Responses

  1. Also, don’t mow your lawn while your kids are outside. My friend is an ER nurse who was telling me they call this “lawn mower season” because so many kids come in with body parts cut off. The other day a kid went down his slide head first right as the dad mowed past and he lost both his hands.

  2. In our old neighborhood the only child who was ever outside playing was the daughter of a policeman. I think he was the only one who had a realistic view of what the real risks of a child playing outside were.

  3. On a related note, the biggest danger from toddlers wandering off doesn’t seem to be snatchings — it’s water. Every couple of years around here there’s a drowned toddler — and as likely as not a neighbor’s pond rather than a family pool. The commenter may not have mentioned that because she never gets to take care of those cases — they don’t make it to the ICU.

  4. If you really care about your kids, you’ll turn off the cell phone while you’re in your car.

  5. On the other hand, Bequirox, you could mow outside but make sure your child knows the boundaries, just like when you cook dinner.

  6. Agreed about the pools and water! I am not saying I have never seen a freak accident like a fall from a tree or a hit on the head with a ball bat, but random accidents do happen. It’s the preventable stuff that parents don’t even consider. Texting while driving? That is ok, but a tall slide is out. Seems like twisted logic.

  7. Being the parent of a child with brain cancer I’ve spent way too much time in the PICU and NTU (neuro trauma unit). Another real danger is head injury due to not wearing a helmet on motorized vehicles, i.e. ATVs, motorcycles, snow mobiles. Protect those noggins.

    Yes, my ten year old has cancer and he’s a free ranger. In the pediatric cancer world if you’re lucky you get periods of ‘watch and wait’ we prefer to call it ‘watch and live.’

    May is brain tumor awareness month, gray is our color.

  8. bequirox, I mow outside all the time while my two year old is out with me–the thing is, I do it safely. I have a push mower, not a gas-powered one. She knows to stay out of my way, and I’m mowing in a safe manner. If I didn’t do this, the lawn wouldn’t get mowed, plain and simple. It’s fine to do it, if you do it with some sense and safety on both your part and your child’s.

  9. I had a sad conversation with my daughter’s in home daycare provider today. Her daughter is in 2nd grade, and she said she wished she could let her walk to school but once she gets down the street and around the corner, she cant see her anymore. It is less than half a mile to school, but she’s afraid that “anyone could be there” to snatch her. I told her that no one has ever been snatched in our extremely safe neighborhood, and in fact, we’re extremely lucky because we have sidewalks, but she used the “well, what if….” standby and wouldnt hear anymore.

  10. Wise words, especially about the water.

    We live on a pond. Our kids are as free-range as we can let them – but, less so than they would be because of the water. Our shoreline is a four-foot stone wall with a drop to deep water.

    The kids can play in the yard alone (at 6 and 9, the 4-year-old gets more monitoring). The RULES: not near the pond, not near our busy road.

    If they want to be near the pond without us, they must wear a vest. They all know how to swim… but, swimming intentionally is different than falling in unexpectedly. Ask me how I know!

    All three can kayak or row on their own, but with us outside and them wearing vests. If they flip, they know the rule is to leave the boat and head to shore.

    We are a very fishy family, with a lot of respect for the water. Things happen way too fast.

    The other lesson from growing up on the water – we don’t assume one grown-up in the crowd is watching swimmers. We identify for sure who is responsible for watching. “I am going in, you are watching them now,ok?” All too often, a kid will drown with a group of adults around, because everyone thinks someone else is watching.

    On the free range end? We all were fishing on our own before five (baiting and unhooking). I rowed on my own at four, and sailed at 8 – with a vest on.

  11. I’m with bequirox — I’m pretty free range but I do have several non-negotiable rules, and one is that my kids have to be inside when someone is one the lawn mower.

    I have a friend whose son was in an unfortunate mower accident and once I saw my teenage stepson playing “bumper car” on our riding mower with my then 5 yr old son who was on his toy electric 4-wheeler. I’ve tried telling my now 6 yr old and 3 yr old that they cannot go anywhere near the mower and they have to stay on the deck, but I think with our riding mower it’s a bit different than a push mower.

  12. My 10yo is starting to grow wings. I would have loved to let her have more freedom but we are in a *big* metropolis so I take it slowly. she now rides her bike to guides with a cell phone, goes to the convenience store down the street with a cell phone. And yes, we’re HUGE on carseat/helmet etc. safety. I constantly give my older 2 (7 and 10) lectures about who to trust. 10yo has proved herself more than once. They got separated from dad once, 10yo, who was only 6 at the time, sought out the first woman she could find, told her what had happened, and asked for help to get to my workplace (a couple of blocks up the street). I praised them to no end for doing the right thing, and gently scolded them for not paying more attention to their dad (who kept calling at them to come back, and they hadn’t been listening). :-)

  13. In response to K, you bring up an excellent point. Teach your child to swim, but also teach them to swim with their clothes on. Children as young as 1 year- yes you read that right, ONE YEAR, can be taught to float on their back while still in clothes, keeping their face above water until someone can get to them.

    Watch this if you don’t believe me:

  14. I especially don’t get the talking on the phone while driving part. There are so many parents out there on the phone while driving their kids around. And there are lots of studies out there that this like drunk driving! The kids would be much safer walking…

  15. My solution to phone calls while driving? I give my 7 yo the phone. He answers as my “assistant”. He calls our destination if need be. It’s great practice as he is on the autism spectrum.

    Even texting..I dictate, he types. So the spelling may be off but the message gets to my mom (or whomever).

    Rules not made to be broken: helmets, seatbelts, booster seats, and driving while influenced (whether it be alcohol or cell phone). My son freaks if I start the car and his seat belt isn’t on properly.

    He also knows that the likelihood a stranger will “snatch” him is rather low, but should the rare happen he knows what to do. I keep it real, and he knows that he can tell me anything (assuming he feels like talking0

  16. As we worry about our children being abducted, I wonder how many of them we subject to the risk of death due to circumcision.

    “approximately 230 baby boys die each year in the U.S. as a result of circumcision surgery”

    http://www.drmomma.org/2010/05/death-from-circumcision.html

  17. Well, Rich, you may have changed my mind about circumcision.

  18. Oh, that piece made me soooo glad I chose not to circumcise my buys. Grandson is also intact. It just didn’t seem logical to cut a piece off a baby.

    Cell phones while driving… I use mine infrequently, but really, if distracting things should be outlawed in cars, we might look at how distracting small children in the backseat are. For instance, your cell phone will never throw a Thomas the Tank Engine at you in traffic. Just sayin’. Or suddenly howl due to a dropped toy. Or fight with a sibling…

  19. Risks I think are the
    thing that make life important and everything that you and I do is risk vs.
    benefit. Is there a risk to sending your kid out? Absolutely. Is there a
    benefit? It exceeds the risk.”

    What else is there to say.

  20. I just want to point out that early swimming lessons (or even being an excellent swimmer) don’t protect a person from drowning. We’re a swimming family. You can never be too careful around water.

  21. pentamom makes a very good point about water. In the late 80s I had a roommate who was a Peds ICU nurse at a prominent medical center. She dreaded summertime every year, because she knew she’d be caring for children brain-dead from drowning, which was very hard to take emotionally.

  22. Oh man, Gramomster, I got a kick out of your comment…fortunately, I’ve not had a Thomas the Tank Engine yet, but t here has been much howling over dropped balls, paci’s, and plastic farm animals. If they ever did outlaw that, we’d all be driving limo style with glass dividers between us and the kids.

  23. @granmonster,

    What you are saying is that since toddlers in the back seat are distracting and necessary (or close enough to necessary for our purposes), we might as well add the risk of cell phones, even though they’re a lot less necessary. Hey, we might as well add the risk of having a couple of beers before we hit the road.

    The devious thing about cell phones is that they don’t ‘feel’ all that risky. As evidenced by the fact that current laws don’t even ‘get’ the real risk. The problem isn’t holding something in your hand. The problem is holding a conversation with someone who isn’t there. It takes a lot more brain power than we perceive. In fact, studies are showing it impairs us as much as being at the legal alcohol limit.

    I don’t agree with but can accept the Libertarian argument against a law. But I do hope you will reconsider the actual activity, even if infrequent. Drinking and driving, even infrequently, is still dumb.

  24. Still, even though related relatives often cause hurt to children, the fact of stranger safety needs to be pounded into kids’ heads. Statistically speaking an abduction by a stranger is unlikely, but to the families that have had this happen, I’m sure they wish they would have better prepared their kids to get away.
    Kids need to know more than to run from strangers, they need to know how to fight against them when they’ve been grabbed and how to be on the lookout for an escape if the worst happens.
    Realistic self defense isn’t just for grown ups, though every parent should learn some basics and teach it to their kids to keep them from becoming a victim. Sites like http://selfdefensefacts.com talk about the importance of realistic self defense for men, women & kids. Kids need to know how to fight, regardless of what popular opinion might say.

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