If you are like me, you probably work to help your children focus on the business of being kids. We want childhood to be a happy time for learning and development, not for fear and concern. As parents, we may want to shelter our children from scary things like the realities of emergency medical situations. I know I worry that if I start talking with my kids about circumstances that would require first aid, I may end up terrifying them. The protector in me wants to shelter my kids and allow them to enjoy life, free of worry and concern.
Yet, first aid emergencies are real; they do happen. If a child finds themselves with an out-of-commission adult, their survival (and the adult’s) may be in their small hands. First aid skills for kids really are necessary.
I personally believe–quite strongly–that we often underestimate our children. They can learn much and absorb information far more quickly than adults in many cases. Yes, they will be limited by their small sizein what they can do to help, but some help is always better than none. We can empower them and help keep our families safer by teaching them first aid skills and letting them know we trust them to care for us in our time of need.
Knowing they have these skills, even if they never have to use them, will increase their self-confidence and their compassion for others. Confidence and compassion are two qualities I certainly want for my children.
I believe there is a balance in the two ideas of protecting our children and teaching them skills they need to know. There are ways to teach first aid to our kids to increase their self-confidence and compassion without terrifying them or causing them nightmares.
Today I have two lists about first aid for you:
- 6 tips for effectively teaching first aid to kids in non-scary ways
- 5 essential first aid skills to teach your children
First, the 6 tips for how to teach the first aid skills to your kids without giving them nightmares:
Tip #1: Narrate
Everyday life with kids will provide plenty of real life opportunities to use first aid skills. Every bike crash, skinned knee, burned finger, etc., provides a teaching moment.
As you help your children with these “emergencies” verbally walk them through what you are doing.
“First, I’m going to use this clean cloth to push on your knee–that will stop the bleeding. Now I am gently washing it out so no dirty bugs decide they like living there. Now I’m going to put a bandaid on to keep the blood in and the bugs out.“
Narrating is great for 3 reasons:
- It will help your kids stay calm if they are hurt and scared as they try to listen to your voice.
- It allows you to model how to calmly care for someone who is injured (even if you are the one injured).
- It provides a way to indirectly teach your children first aid skills without sitting them down and talking about various scary situations.
In order to narrate correctly, you must know your own “stuff” when it comes to first aid. So, study up! Take a class! Research!
Tip #2: Play a Game
While narrating real life examples is an effective way to teach first aid, you don’t have much control over how or when such situations happen (you are, after all, trying to prevent them). In addition, bigger emergencies happen less frequently, and you want your kids prepared for such things before they happen.
One solution for helping kids to get the practice with first aid skills they need is “playing doctor.” Most young kids love this game. They see it as fun, not scary. Just look at how many play doctor sets you can find on Amazon!
Pretend to be your child’s patient, and help them figure out what to do to treat your “symptoms.” You could also have them be your patient and narrate what you are doing to help them with their “symptoms.”
As they learn and demonstrate a correct understanding of first aid skills, congratulate them! Let them know that they could use those amazing things they know in real life if someone they loved were hurt.
Tip #3: Read a Book
There are many books written on first aid that are specifically for kids. Most are colorful and fun. Some include coloring pages or other activities. Young kids love to cuddle up as a parent reads to them, and doing so will help create positive feelings that can outweigh the scary ones caused by thinking about emergency situations.
You can find lots of kid’s first aid books on Amazon HERE.
Tip #4: Use the Media
Discuss first aid situations that happen on the news (especially if they involve children) or in the cartoons that your kids watch. Ask them questions about what they would do in that situation such as, “What do you think that child did right? What could they have done differently?”
I also found a great website for kids and first aid HERE from the British Red Cross.
The Red Cross has also teamed up with the DADA company to create a safety and first aid app for kids.
Tip # 5: Go to Safety Events Available in Your Area
Take your kids to the fire station and let the firefighters teach them a bit about first aid. Find out if your local pool has any water safety classes. Check the local hospital for “teddy bear clinics.”
Tip # 6: Take a First Aid Class with Them
As your children get a little older, you may want to enroll them in a formal first aid class. A class taken with a parent or loved one, taught by a non-family member can be fun quality time for older children. I know my 9 year old twins love “dates” with mom or dad, so why not make the “date” something productive and empowering like a first aid class?
Now, onto the 5 basic skills every child should know.
Please note that older children (those old enough to take a first aid class) can, and probably should, learn more advanced first aid skills, but every small child (from age 3 or 4 on) can learn the following:
Skill #1: Calling for Help
In the US, kids need to know how to call 911. (Many other countries are 122 or 999. I believe Australia is 000.) This one skill alone is HUGE. If kids can calmly call 911, the operator can often walk them through other things that need to be done.
Kids should know
- How to dial your local emergency number (with cell phones this includes unlocking the phone OR how to access the emergency call screen)
- How to “send” (start/initiate) the call once they have entered the number (not needed for a landline, but with cell phones you often have to press “the green phone button” or something similar)
- Their address and phone number (most emergency calls are made on cell phones which means the operator may not be able to find your location)
- How to describe their location (This is useful if you are away from home at the time of the emergency. For example, I’m near a 7-11 at a big park with a pool. I see a sign with the letters S-A-L-T-L-A-K-E). Most of the time, the operator will be able to find a general location (city), but your child may need to give specifics to help them find your exact location.
Once your kids know these things, practice! Make it a game…give out lots of praise, and make it fun!
Use a pretend phone to have them “dial,” then “answer” and ask
- What’s your emergency?
- Where are your calling from? Where do you live?”
- What’s your name?
- Who needs help?
- Is the person _________ (awake, throwing up, bleeding etc)?
- Please __________ (raise their head, get an icepack, push on the owie with a towel, etc.)
Skill #2: Finding a First Aid Kit
All children in your home should know where to find a first aid kit. If local adults come to help before an ambulance arrives, your child can show them where to find live-saving supplies.
As your children grow, you can teach them what the various supplies are for (maybe by “playing doctor”) and how to use them.
Skill #3: Controlling Bleeding
Severe bleeding can quickly become life threatening, and even young children can find a clean cloth and apply pressure (push on the owie with the towel). Make sure they know NOT to remove the towel, but that they can add another on top of it if needed.
Skill #4: Family Specific Emergencies
If someone if your family has a severe allergy, everyone (including children) should know where to find and how to use an epi-pen. Does anyone have diabetes or epilepsy, etc.? What do your children need to know in order to help those family members?
Skill #5: Hands Only CPR
I saved this one for last as very young children may be able to understand the concept behind hands only CPR, but not be big enough or strong enough to perform it.
But even young kids may be able to do more than we think they can with adrenaline running through their bodies. An older child (7+ years old) can likely perform hands only CPR.
The American Heart Association says that only 32% of of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest victims are getting CPR from a bystander! We as a society need to increase that number. One way is to make certain our children know how to perform this life saving skill.
Hands-Only-CPR is simply CPR without breaths. It is so simple that ANYONE can learn it right from their home. The steps to Hands-Only CPR are simple: (1) call 9-1-1 and (2) push hard and fast (think of the beat to the disco song “Stayin Alive”) on the center of the chest until professional help arrives. Here is a quick video you can watch:
Take some time this next week to teach these five important first aid skills to your children using one (or more) of the suggested methods. What other suggestions do you have for teaching children first aid skills in a way that won’t scare them? If you try any of the above mentioned ways of practicing first aid skills, I’d love to have you come back and comment and let me know how it went!
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