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MilParent Power: Keeping Your Children Safe so They Can Thrive

In many ways parenting is a lot like a military job: it’s a 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year commitment. And while it’s not always easy, it can be extremely rewarding.

Watching your child grow into a happy, curious, confident person is one of the most rewarding parts of parenthood. But parenting isn’t the only thing going on in your life. Your work, your relationship with your spouse, even daily tasks like laundry can make it tough to feel like you’re doing enough for your children.

The good news is, the military community is also a parenting community. Chances are, a lot of the people in your unit, your job and in your chain of command are parents too. Reach out — you may be surprised by the tips you’ll get from neighbors, coworkers or child care providers.

Keeping them safe and sound

Of course, your first job as a parent is to keep your children safe. That is often easier said than done, as anyone who’s had a toddler bolt into a busy parking lot will tell you.

Consider these tips to take your parenting game to the next level and ensure your little ones are safe:

Supervision. The realities of military life, including deployments, frequent moves and other disruptions to your routine, can make it hard to ensure your kids are always supervised. But inadequate child supervision — including leaving a child alone at home, in the car, in the bathtub or in a public area such as a playground — creates a higher risk for childhood injuries and even death.

To ensure your child is safe when you can’t be around, consider military child care options, including the Child Development Center and family child care homes on your installation and off-base military programs.

Many states — and even some installations — have laws, policies or guidelines that can help you understand at what ages and for how long children can be left alone. If you have questions about the rules in your area, or about other factors that determine whether or not your child is ready to be left unsupervised, reach out to Military OneSource.

Home Hazards. Childproofing your home is more than just covering electric outlets and installing cabinet latches. Nearly 9 million children are treated for unintentional injuries in hospital emergency departments each year. For families that move a lot, it can be tough to remember just how many things pose a danger to young children. The most common hazards include:

  • Unsecured weapons — Every day, 20 children in the U.S. are hospitalized for gun-related injuries. Keep your weapons in a gun safe and store ammunition separately.
  • Medications, vitamins, personal care products and household cleaners — Most poisonings occur when parents or caregivers are home but are not paying attention. Keep potential poisons out of reach.
  • Water — A child can drown in just a few inches of bath water. Never leave a child alone in a bathtub, and secure toilets and other sources of water in your home.
  • Climbing hazards — Secure bookcases, dressers and TVs with brackets or straps. Be aware of open windows.
  • Hot stoves — Keep the handles of pots and pans turned inward and out of children’s reach, and be aware of where your children are when you’re using the stove.
  • Unsafe bedding — Accidental suffocation or strangulation in bed is one of the primary causes of sudden infant death. Keep your infant’s bed clear of stuffed animals, pillows, crib bumpers and soft bedding. If you live in a cold climate, talk to your pediatrician about the safest way to keep your infant warm in bed.

Power down the phone to power up your parenting

There are about a million things going on in the life of a parent from one moment to the next — grocery lists, job tasks, social media and nonstop “breaking news.” Technology has made it easier than ever to multitask, but it’s also made it easier to lose focus on your children. Even our “down time” is often dominated by television, social media or video games. Electronic distractions can rob us precious time and attention needed to keep children safe and healthy.

Remember that putting down the cell phone or turning off your big screen is one of the most powerful ways you can connect with your child. It will make them feel important and loved. From infants to teenagers, children know when they are the center of your attention — and when they’re not.

You’re not alone. Everyone knows parenting can be hard, and there are lots of places to turn to find help, guidance and support if you need it. Rest assured, you have around-the-clock access to information and positive ideas for strengthening your parent skills on Military OneSource.