The other day I was giving a talk to a 12 year old young man and his mother at the end of his checkup that I am sure I have delivered thousands of times before over the years. As I was speaking, the thought crossed my mind that I need to share this talk with my podcast listeners. Of course! If I have bothered to consistently deliver it in person for so many years, it must be important. In fact, I know this little conversation has saved at least a few children from devastating injuries. Why you ask, because a few children have told me so? I am particularly righteous about giving this talk to my preteen and teenage boy patients because they seem to need it the most. I want them to hear it directly from me! Girls have accidents as well and all of these tips apply to girls as well, of course, but today my focus is on accidents that I see far more frequent in boys for reasons I am about to explain. So sit back and hear how this pediatrician talks to children, especially boys, about the number one cause of morbidity and death in children, childhood accidents.
Today’s podcast is sponsored by a fellow blogger, Dr. Charlotte Rouchouze, who has created a wonderful blog called “The Childrens Table”. There you will find interesting recipes, discussions about what’s new in childhood nutrition, and descriptions of feeding practices around the world, all done in a solid, down to earth practical manner. If you have children in your house who you want to make good eaters, check out thechildrenstable.com today. You’ll be glad you did.
Boys will be Boys
Boys, especially pre adolescent and adolescent boys are wired to seek thrills. How do I know this? As I explain to my patients, I know this for two reasons; First, believe it or not, it wasn’t all that long ago that I was a young teen and had the thrill seeking mindset. Fortunately, I survived those years without a devastating injury but let me tell you, I had some close calls. Secondly, I have spent my adult life taking care of injuries in this age group of boys and young men. If you have a few hours or maybe days, I can tell you some amazing true stories about bright, good looking, athletic, intelligent young men who had a moment when whatever crazy thing they were trying “Just seemed like a good idea”. That’s always what they say after the injury, “it just seemed like a good idea.” What they are really saying is that the reward of having a wonderful thrill, outweighed the risks in their judgement at that moment. As I said before, boys are wired to seek thrills, whether that be jumping amazingly high, going a little faster than the last run, showing off their super agility, knocking over someone bigger, etc. Pushing the envelope is just thrilling, regardless of the consequences.
Thrill Seeking Comes with a Price
But all that thrill seeking comes at a price. Sometimes, things go very wrong and the end game can be pretty ugly, sometimes with life changing permanent injuries. Sustaining a permanent spinal cord or head injury in the pursuit of the perfect flip is a really bum deal. Imagine watching all your friends play, from the view of a wheelchair, waiting for someone to come change your diapers. I like to put that image in my male patients brains with each checkup as they get older. And that is no exaggeration. I often ask, junior’s parents if they knew someone when they were growing up who became a para or quadriplegic in the pursuit of a thrill. Most parents do know someone who had such a devastating injury. It’s pretty common.
Which Thrills are the Most Dangerous?
What are these thrills you might be thinking? The majority of the really serious injuries that I see in the thrill seeking boy crowd that I care for, happen when a child is “playing” with powerful motorized vehicles like dirt bikes or four wheelers, when they dive into muddy water like a lake or river, when they play with combustible and explosive materials, when they are moving fast without wearing a safety helmet and crash, when they are playing with guns, or when they start driving or riding in cars with their young friends.
Serious Childhood Accidents are mostly Preventable
The thing is, accidents are preventable. That’s not true of other childhood tragedies. Think about it, no matter how hard you as a parent try, you can’t prevent your children from coming down with leukemia, but more often than not, you can, prevent them, especially those thrill seeking boys, from having a serious injury by consistently doing some basic things. Commit these suggestions to memory and make sure you visit these measures frequently with your children, especially your boys, as they are growing up:
1: Always have your children properly restrained in the car, in the safest location and in a seat that is recommended for their size and age.
2: Insist that, when they roll on any toy or vehicle like a bicycle or scooter, that they wear a properly fitted protective helmet-every ride.
3: Set a good example by wearing your seatbelt and helmet just as you expect your children to do, every ride!
4: Do not purchase motorized vehicles for your children to play with. Period. These are not toys.
5: Make sure your children have enough swim lessons to make them safe in deep water and that they know the dos and don’ts of diving. That diving part is particularly important. Drill this warning into their little heads.
6: Teach your children about fire safety. Make sure they know how dangerous matches, flammable liquids, and fireworks really are. Again, these are not toys.
7: Refrain from buying your children firearms of any sort.
That’s it. Pretty simple and common sense. With these measures, I’m pretty sure you will be able to keep your little Johnny or Janie safe.
I hope you enjoyed that little conversation and plan to have a similar conversation with your sons. Believe it or not, they do listen to what you say and if repeated enough, talks like this can change their behavior and even judgement. These kind of conversations are putting that little voice inside their heads that whispers to them when they are free-ranging it, “Would my parents want me doing this?” If the answer is no, maybe they will pass on that thrill. Let’s hope so.
I hope that conversation helped to make you one of the best informed parents in the room. Always my goal. If you enjoy exploring pediatric health topics with pedcasts, go ahead and subscribe to my blog/podcast at www.docsmo.com, on Apple podcasts, or now… Google Podcasts. This is Doc Smo, broadcasting from studio 1E, feeling unabashed about helping prevent your child’s next crash. Until next time.
Many thanks to Dr. Monica Miller and Dr. Charlotte Rouchouze for editing this pedcast.