Recently, a house in our neighborhood went up in flames in the dead of the night. This got me thinking about steps I should take to protect my family. Our boys are five and six years old, so they have been talked to a little about fire safety by my wife and me. What should we be covering when we discuss this with children of these ages?
You do not want to instill fear in your children about this topic, but you can begin to get your message across by taking the time to talk about the following issues. Stress the importance of not playing with matches, and not picking up matches or cigarettes when they see them on the sidewalk or elsewhere. Children are fascinated by fire and they receive conflicting messages from adults. Stop and think. We light birthday candles, put a candle in a pumpkin for Halloween, use a grill outside, and have fires in our home fireplace. Children watch us do all these things, but do not understand that these are all controlled situations. Nor do they comprehend how fast fire can become uncontrollable. Children are naturally curious. It can be good to show them how fires are started, but again the emphasis needs to be placed on how quickly and easily fires can rage out of control. Perhaps showing a particular scene from a movie that shows a forest fire would help drive the point home, but not be overwhelming to your children.
Emphasize to your boys that should a fire begin in their home or any building they are in, it is important to get out of the area immediately, taking nothing with them. The fire department should be called from another, safe location. Tell them this is necessary due to the speed at which fires spread.
Accidents do happen and your children should be told that the worst thing that they can do if their clothes catch on fire is to run. Acknowledge the fact that this would be a natural first reaction on anyone's part, but explain to them that running will cause the flames to intensify. Practice the stop-drop-and roll technique several times with your sons. In an open area, have them run around and stop when you call out for them to do so. Tell them to drop to the ground and begin rolling back and forth. When they are rolling, make sure their feet are straight out and that they are rolling over and over to the left and then to the right. It is imperative to stress that as they roll they must cover their eyes with their hands. Practicing this a few times will instill it into them. Should they ever have an accident they should react in a safe manner.
As a family you should designate a specific meeting spot outside of your home and have a practice drill at least twice. Conduct it once during the day and then again at night when the lights have just been turned out. Having a mock evacuation with your family will show you areas that you can improve upon for your own safety and that of your family's.
My child attends a morning preschool program for three days a week. At home she talks about her friends, what they have played and all the things she enjoys. However, she has told me that at times she "really, really, misses" me and her family. Teachers report that she plays with the other children and appears to enjoy each day.
Give her a favorite picture of you and the other family members to put in her pocket. Advise her that when she misses you she can take it out and look at it. This should help.
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