Parenting Archive

Kids Left in Cars: What Can We Do?

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As my daughter and I dodged shredded tire treads on the freeway on the way to her oboe lesson, they reminded me that warm weather is here to stay and we should be cognizant of who is in the car at all times. As temps go up outside, they can climb even faster inside and anyone who is vulnerable—child, elderly person, or pet—can succumb to heat stroke in a short amount of time. Even moderate outside temperatures can produce deadly vehicle interior temperatures and cracking a window isn’t enough to air out the car.

When a vehicle is in the sun, it starts to heat up. We’ve all felt this when we’ve sat in a car with the engine off. What happens is the sun shines through the transparent windows and heats the surfaces in the car. The radiation from the sun touches the dashboard, steering wheel, and other solid objects, as well as floating air molecules we can’t see. Conduction works to heat the interior surfaces of the vehicle up quickly and convection moves the air molecules around faster and faster, causing them to heat at a rapid rate. Even leaving the windows down a crack doesn’t help because of the conduction heating the surfaces; the surfaces heat up, which cause the air inside to heat as well. What about a cloudy day where the sun’s rays aren’t shining through the windows? Let me tell you about the worst sunburn I ever got—on a cloudy day. The radiation from the sun still comes through the clouds and can heat that vehicle up.

The SUV in the picture below was left in the sun on a very pleasant morning for about a half hour. During that time, while the outside temperature was 66º, the inside temperature rose to 128º. The vehicle was set up for my Safe Kids coalition’s press conference and rescue demonstration kicking off our Heatstroke Awareness Campaign.

SUV in sun ready for rescue

A child left in the vehicle is at serious risk for heat stroke or death. Heat stroke is when the body’s temperature rises above 104º. A child’s body temperature rises 3-5 times faster than an adult’s and symptoms of heat stroke include red, hot, moist or dry skin, lack of sweating (their bodies have reached a point where they can’t cool down on their own anymore), headache, dizziness, confusion, and nausea. When a child’s body reaches 107º, their organs will shut down and death most likely will occur.

As much as we try to educate parents not to leave their children in vehicles, last year there were 30 children who died left in vehicles. Some of these deaths were accidental and some were intentional. It’s the accidental deaths where we can make an impact by making a few changes in our habits. But habits are hard to change and we have to be intentional in changing them. Can you imagine being this guy, who accidentally left his sleeping child in his SUV at the train station parking lot and remembered her when he got into the city? That had to have been the longest train ride back out to get her.

Time and again, a break in routine has been the reason a child has been left behind in a vehicle. The parent with the child is doing something out of the ordinary and forgets that the child is in the car or a daycare provider is overwhelmed with the number of children in the van and forgets the quiet one. From 1998-2014, 53% of children who died from heatstroke in vehicles were forgotten about by their caregivers. During that same time period, 29% were children who accidentally locked themselves in a vehicle while playing, and adults intentionally left 17% in the vehicle.

How can we address this problem and prevent it from happening again? First, we can stop blaming the victims and recognize everyone has the potential to forget their child. Sleep deprivation is a serious problem at some point for everyone who has a child and it can make your brain act in ways it normally wouldn’t. Laws may help dissuade caregivers who casually leave their children in vehicles as they run errands or get manicures, but they aren’t going to make a difference for those who forget their children. If you forget a child, you’re not going to remember them because of the threat of going to jail. Nineteen states have laws regarding unattended children in vehicles. Second, let’s be proactive, both as parents driving our children and as community members. Look in the car next to you as you get out to make sure a child, pet, or elderly person wasn’t left behind. Look in your business parking lots on broiling hot days AND teeth-chattering cold days. Safe Kids Worldwide gives us this handy acronym to help us remember to ACT to save lives:

A: Avoid heatstroke by never leaving a child alone in a car and by locking your vehicle so a child can’t get trapped inside accidentally.

C: Create reminders for yourself by putting your cellphone or wallet in the back seat next to the carseat. Also have your daycare provider call you and your significant other when the child is late or absent from daycare.

T: Take action if you see a child alone in a vehicle. This is an emergency and emergency personnel want you to call 911. Be cautious about breaking a vehicle window because you or someone else could be injured.

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Thanks to Jan Null, CCM, San Jose State University for providing data and studying this topic for so many years!

Don’t be afraid of us!

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Sesame Street refers to a special group of people as “Community Helpers”. These people include those who chose careers that most people wouldn’t want/be able to do in order to serve their community, and typically don’t get compensated nearly enough for it in monetary terms. These people include firefighters, police officers, nurses, soldiers, teachers, etc.

Teach your child to honor and respect those who have made and continue to make their world safer.

Teach your child to honor and respect those who have made and continue to make their world safer.

I’m a nurse, and happy to be part of that group. I see more in a 12 hour shift than most people see in a life time. It’s pure, it’s raw, and it’s real. I see people at their worst and most vulnerable. I choose to take care of them regardless of who they are or what they’ve done or what secrets they are hiding.

I’ve been spit on, hit, pushed, cursed at, you name it. But you know what the worst thing is? The thing that hurts the most? Adults who use me to scare their children. There’s a child running up and down the halls of our unit and instead of saying, “Come here please, people are sick and we need to be quiet”, I hear, “Get over here or I’m gonna get that nurse to give you a shot”.

Unfortunately a large percentage of my job involves doing things that involve pain. Pain that is unpleasant but oftentimes necessary. Please don’t teach your children that is all we do and they should be afraid of us.

We are all here to serve you and protect you as well as your children. Telling them we will give them shots if they don’t listen or arrest them when they’re misbehaving isn’t fostering the feelings of trust we strive so hard to achieve.

Please, think of your community helpers. We do our jobs because we love you. And we love your kids. Teach your kids to love us too! Allowing them to feel safe around us may help save their lives one day.

Kids naturally want to pretend to be superheroes. Teach your kids that superheroes don't always wear capes and exist on TV. Sometimes they wear helmets or scrubs, and show up in our darkest hour. And they're real. Sorry Spiderman!

Kids naturally want to pretend to be superheroes. Teach your kids that superheroes don’t always wear capes and exist on TV. Sometimes they wear helmets or scrubs, and show up in our darkest hour. And they’re real. Sorry Spiderman!

The Top 5 List of Shame.

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Let’s face it, kids are honest. To a fault at times. We’ve all had the embarrassing moments  where we want to disappear.

One of Liam’s latest gems involves movies.  I rented Neighbors on the RedBox last week and Liam asked if he could watch it. I told him no, because it was a movie for adults. He asked why, and I said because it had stuff not appropriate for kids. He said, “Oh, like not pooping in toilets? That’s inappropriate and so is talking about poop”. I just ignored it while he cracked himself up. Fast forward to later that day, we were in Target and he points out some cardboard cut out with a Frozen movie character. The employee standing nearby goes, “Oh, are you a big Frozen fan?” Liam says, “Well, I like Toy Story better but my mom doesn’t like Frozen. She only likes adult movies where they poop everywhere.”

Cue awkward silence.

Starting preschool has opened a whole new world to the embarrassing moment files. And often, it doesn’t even involve your kid directly. I actually do a fairly decent job of embarrassing myself without the help of my spawn. So here we go, a top 5 list of embarrassing moments in preschool.

1) Forgetting all your kid’s basic info. I wrote down my birthday instead of Liam’s on his preschool paperwork. To be fair, we have the same date, but I put 1985 instead of 2010. So for awhile, they had a 28 (at the time) year old preschooler. At least by 28 you can wipe your own bottom, right? Then, to add insult to injury, I was asked when Declan’s birthday was and I was off by 3 days. Oops.

2) Forgetting your kid altogether. Do you know how many times I’ve run errands with just the baby while Liam was in school and when I turned around to back out the parking space, saw his empty car seat and had a brief moment of panic that I left him inside Target somewhere? More times than I’m going to admit on this public blog, that’s for sure.

3) The awkward drop off. You know, the kind where you are straggling in 15 minutes late. The baby is in pajamas, your jeans are from yesterday (and the day before? Shhhh!!!) and have dried yogurt on the leg, the other kid has a permanent scowl on his face because he couldn’t finish playing before it was time to leave, you say hi to people without actually looking them in the eye because you’re trying to stay awake. Yeah. Actually, we aren’t rude or homeless. Just perpetually late. There is no way we are going to make the 7:15am drop off for kindy next year.

4) Not knowing anyone’s name. It’s bad, really bad. Everyone is Susie’s mom or John’s dad. Even as the contact in your phone. Maybe it’s just me being terrible with names but I’m hoping I’m not the only one. Then, you pass the timeframe where it’s still appropriate to ask what their name is. When you’ve been to the park multiple times and chatted for awhile and know the names and ages of all each other’s kids..yeah, it’s too late. Your time has passed. You are going to still be friends with them 5 years later and there’s going to come a time where they will catch you trying to sneak a look at the pile of mail on their counter, desperately trying to see what their name is. Explain that one. That’s right, you can’t. So don’t let the time frame pass you!

5) The Michael Jackson. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say pretty much all kids have gone through this, but moms of boys will probably understand better. All the kids are standing together nicely doing what they’re supposed to be doing, and there’s yours absent mindedly grabbing his crotch like it’s covered in ants. I gave up worrying about it awhile ago but there is something fairly awkward about introducing yourself to another mom, “Hi! I’m Alicia. My son is Liam…he’s that one over there. Yes, the one in the dinosaur shirt scratching his behind while trying to lick his own nose.” Classic.

I guess all we can do is write it all down, then give it to them later in life. So they can say, “Thanks mom. Thanks for dragging your sleep deprived, sour yogurt wearing butt to school so you can talk to nameless people while I go against social decency. I’m a happy, functioning adult now that no longer grabs himself in public. I love you!”

Yes, I have the kid that won't even stop being wild for a 2 second photo.

Yes, I have the kid that won’t even stop being wild for a 2 second photo.

The contradiction of having a 4 year old.

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I feel like having a spirited 4 year old is truly something another person will never understand unless they’ve been down in the trenches with you. Deep, mucky trenches filled with laughter, screaming, elation, anger, mismatched clothing, chocolate milk and questions. Never ending questions.

I need goggles for parenting.

I need goggles for parenting.

Sometimes I feel like having a preschooler is basically living one big contradiction. Wait, sometimes? I mean all the time.

Please don’t ever stop talking because the things that come from your awesome brain and out of your little mouth are hilarious and amazing. But please, for the love of everything, stop talking! The droning of questions from that little voice is infiltrating my every thought and driving me to the brink of a major bedtime chocolate binge.

Please don’t ever stop dancing. I love how you don’t care what you look like, and I marvel how every joint and muscle in your body was knit together inside my own and now serves to bring you joy and life…including launching yourself off the couch into the wall (thank you nature, for flexible childhood cartilage). But please, stop dancing, jumping, and squirming! The constant movement! It exhausts me and gosh I miss your naptimes.

Please don’t ever stop being persistent.  Your determination is a marvel and I can’t wait to see the places it takes you. You could out-argue the best lawyer in the world and your confidence and stubbornness  in getting what you need surpasses my own. But please, stop persisting you have your millionth cracker of the day. Ask me again and I will fill your bed with crackers and make you take my sorely missed naps on it.

Please don’t ever stop being you. Ever. But please, bedtime, hurry up!

With love from the trenches,

Alicia