Keeping Kids Safe in a Challenging World

From knowing how to safely tuck an infant into bed, to dealing with a bully in junior high, how are parents able to keep their children safe in this complicated world?

Whether a child is 4, like Jemal Dyson, or 14, parents need to be ever watchful about their changing safety risks, says Dr. Gilbert Chang.

“It’s a challenge, for sure,” said Gilbert Chang, M.D., a pediatrician at the NorthBay Center for Primary Care in Green Valley, “and so much of what worries parents varies as the child grows.” But, since he has spent more than a decade caring for children from birth to 18 years, Dr. Chang has developed quite the advice arsenal to help parents gain some peace of mind.

Take bedtime for infants, for example. Many of today’s young parents may have grown up sleeping on their bellies, but Dr. Chang advises that this generation of parents instead place their infants on their backs at bedtime.

“Current research indicates that back-sleeping reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death,” he noted. And if a parent is concerned about how back-sleeping might affect the shape of a newborn’s head, be sure to offer the newborn plenty of time cuddling on your chest or on his or her belly when awake.

“Remember that safety is an everyday activity. Prevention
is the best medicine.”

Gilbert Chang, M.D.

Dr. Chang also discourages parents from bringing an infant into bed with them. “Babies should not sleep in the bed with their parents, because it increases the risk that the child’s breathing could get cut off. It’s even more dangerous if the parent smokes, drinks or takes drugs— even some prescription drugs,” he said. Optimally, an infant should sleep in their parents’ room for the first six months, but the child will need his or her own safe space for slumber, such as in a bassinet or crib.

A host of other safety concerns crop up when your baby starts crawling or toddling. “Parents should baby-proof their home from top to bottom, covering electrical outlets, removing furniture with sharp corners, making sure they are safe in the kitchen when you are cooking, for example.”

As his young patients grow older, parents begin to question the right time for sports, cell phones, and even how to deal with bullies at school.

“Unfortunately, bullying can begin early, even in the first grade,” Dr. Chang noted. “I advise my parents to watch for signs of emotional withdrawal, or complaints of headaches, dizziness or belly pain when classes start in the fall or after the holidays.”

It’s important for parents to listen to their child, not only when they’re expressing concerns about school, but at all stages and ages, he added. Taking the time to listen not only keeps you connected, but will help your child to feel safe. “Remember that safety is an everyday activity. Prevention is the best medicine.”

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