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Sending your kids over to play at a friend’s house to play is one of the best ways to make it through the summertime while school is out, child care is limited and the need to find activities to entertain our kids is endless. But, it can also be a scary decision for any parent to make to entrust the safety of your child with another adult. Do you know if it is a safe place to play at your playdate’s house?
Parents and other primary caregivers have the right and responsibility to make decisions about how best to protect their children, even when someone else is caring for them. Whether child care is family, a friend, neighbor or licensed child care provider, parents need to communicate their safe-storage priorities to anyone who cares for their children. Making sure dangerous items are out of reach is one of the easiest ways to keep your kids safe. However, it always seems like conversations with those closest to us are the most uncomfortable, especially when they are doing you a favor, like hosting a playdate or helping out with child care when you are in desperate need of help.
Things to Think, and Talk, About Before a Playdate
As Benjamin Franklin said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” reminding us all that it is easier to stop something from happening in the first place than to repair damage after a tragedy. This is certainly true when it comes to the storage of harmful substances and dangerous items. The list of things that can be harmful to children is long, and it can be difficult to wrap our minds around safely storing anything and everything that could be dangerous.
There is wisdom in prioritizing those things that can be most harmful to children for safe-storage. By prioritizing a list of things to store safely away from children, we can prevent harm before it occurs. Some things to prioritize talking about before sending your kids over to play include:
It’s now required by law to safely store your guns. Guns and ammunition should be stored separately from each other in lock boxes or gun safes. Trigger locks offer added protection and can be used in tandem with these safe storage options to increase security.
What to Say
“My child is always getting into things around our house. I wanted to let you know so that you can put anything that could be harmful things away before he\she\they come over.”
Prescription medications should be kept in their original, labeled, childproof containers. But childproof containers offer only the minimum of protection, therefore, the containers themselves should be stored in such a way as to prevent children and others from accessing them.
What to Say
“Steve has proven that he can get into just about any kind of container. We’ve talked to him about boundaries, but he is so curious! I’d like to ask you to put any medications or other harmful substances away where he can’t get to them just in case.”
Substances can be found in a majority of homes across America. Alcohol, nicotine and marijuana are a few examples of substances that are commonly and legally used by adults. Illicit substances can also be found in many homes where children may be present. Both legal and illicit substances can cause great harm or death, and therefore should be stored in such a way that children and youth cannot access them. Safe-storage bags and other locking containers can greatly increase safety when used appropriately and consistently.
What to Say
“I’m sure this goes without saying, but please store any substances that might be around the house where my children can’t get to them. Childproof containers are helpful, but they aren’t really enough to prevent children from opening them. It is something that I have been really conscious of ever since I read a blog post about.”
In every household where children are or might be present, parents, caregivers and others should think ahead, make decisions around what should be stored away from children and youth, and choose how to store it safely. That is easier to do in our own homes. There are a number of programs that can provide families with locking safe-storage bags, lock boxes, trigger locks, etc. Talk to a family support worker at a human services agency or family resource center near you to begin to identify resources that you can use to be protective and preventive, and to keep your family safe.
Share What Works for You
Once you’ve made smart choices at home to keep your kids safe, share your lessons learned and recommend the community resources that helped you strengthen your family with the people that care for your kids.
About the Author
Jason Read, M.Ed., is an education program manager with Illuminate Colorado and regular blog contributor sharing his professional guidance, as well as personal experiences as a father of three children. Jason leads Smart Choices Safe Kids conversation guide trainings for professionals working with children, parents and caregivers.