It’s finally summer! After a long winter (and spring) filled with snowstorms and cold weather here in Colorado, parents and children alike are excited for warmer weather. Whether your ideal summer day is sitting by the pool watching your kids play, or hiking and camping in Colorado’s mountains, fun days are ahead!

With summer also comes new situations, stressors, and potential dangers that caregivers need to be mindful of in order to keep kids safe. A break from school often means that parents don’t get a break from parenting, which is not only stressful but can also create logistical safety concerns.

 Today, we will discuss ways we can all help keep kids safe throughout the summer, whether you’re a parent, family member, or even a neighbor helping out by watching the kids. Join us!

Planning for Safety While Using Substances

No judgment here– it may be a part of how you manage your stress, or socialize with friends. And, with children home all day instead of at school, it’s difficult for parents to find time for themselves and de-stress.

Summer is filled with social activities where substances may be common like baseball games, block parties, or hanging out with neighbors. It can also be common to turn to substances to take the edge off a stressful day, or at least joke about it. Whether it’s a glass of wine or beer, an edible, a mocktail, or practicing mindfulness, the choices you make now in how you are present with the children in your life are more important than ever. Here are three things everyone should ask themselves when considering using a substance while taking care of a child/children to keep them safe:

Who would take the kids to the hospital if you were incapacitated in any way, or drive home from an event?

Driving under the influence of any mind or body altering substance can be dangerous for everyone in and around the vehicle. Make sure there is an adult in the home who has the capacity to get behind the wheel and care for the kids to help prevent something awful from happening. Did you know it can take up to 4 hours to feel the full effect of an edible, and the intoxicating effects can last up to 6-8 hours, or more?

Is everything stored where the kids can’t get it?

We all need to make sure substances are properly stored all the time, just like dangerous household cleaning items. This may include locking alcohol in a cupboard or pantry, or locking medications or THC products in a locking bag or box.

Keeping substances out of reach of children and young people is important, and is an easy step in creating a safe environment for your family.

What are you doing to take care of yourself right now?

While summer means fun days on the water, ice cream cones, and other adventures, it can also mean long days of parenting without a break. There are a variety of ways to take care of yourself that don’t include “checking out.” Find a place you can retreat to when you start to feel stressed. Even if it is locking yourself in the bathroom or going for a short walk, give yourself permission to take at least 5 minutes alone, assuming children are in a safe place, like a baby in a crib, alone on their back.

Finding ways to take care of yourself can make all the difference in reclaiming some balance and help you be the parent you want to be for your kids.

Planning a Playdate?

A parenting break for the afternoon while you know your child is having fun and in safe hands? It’s a win-win. And, you can return the favor next time to give another parent a breather! But, how can you tell if your child’s playdate’s house is safe?

Making sure dangerous items are out of reach is one of the easiest ways to keep your kids safe, but we know that conversation can often feel hard, especially when they are doing you a favor by hosting a playdate. 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.

 

By having a conversation about safety with another parent, you can help ensure that all children involved are as safe as possible:

Weapons

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.”

Medications

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

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 it.”

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.

Learn more about how to keep children safe not only throughout summer but through every stage of life, visit SmartChoicesSafeKids.org

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Keeping Kids Safe Starts With a Conversation

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It is essential for any professional who works directly with families to be equipped with the tools needed to have effective conversations about substances. That’s why Illuminate Colorado developed a conversation guide for professionals to use in talking to families about substance use and preventing child maltreatment…

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