In Oklahoma, 34-year-old Christina Aaron has been placed in custody and had visitation rights to her daughter revoked after an incident where Aaron allegedly sent the 4-year old girl to school under the influence of alcohol, according to KOCO5. Evidently, the child had accessed an open beer can left out while the mother slept and proceeded to drink about two-thirds of the can. The case is being investigated further by the Department of Human Services.
This is not the first time in recent history that an event like this has made the news. According to WLWT in Cincinnati, a three year old girl was found to be drunk at the time of an injury on the 29th of February. The Indy Channel reported a case in Indiana at the beginning of February where a mother allegedly provided her eleven-year-old daughter with alcohol and marijuana on her birthday. In Texas, a fourteen month old overdosed on cocaine according to reports from KWTX.
These cases should be rare and can be prevented by taking the proper measures to ensure that children do not put their hands on substances they have no business putting in their bodies – alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, and prescription drugs can all be not only fatal to children but can cause brain damage, dependency later in life, or can lead to serious injuries. What can parents do in order to help prevent these tragedies from occurring?
Aside from the obvious “don’t leave your cocaine on the counter” answer (or even better yet, “just say no”), there are several things parents can do in order to prevent children from ingesting chemicals they ought not to ingest.
First, and the one most recommended by parenting experts is to talk to your children. Yes, some of the children in these accidents are below the “age of reason”; however, having clear boundaries on acceptable behavior is a key in preventing children from ingesting toxic substances on purpose. Moreover, identifying various substances that are hazardous can be beneficial – especially if children do not know that various things that might look like candy, soda, or sugar are really quite dangerous for them. Finally, knowing your child having open lines of communication with your child can prevent coming home and finding your twelve-year old drunk on your couch (or worse).
Second, and it can’t be said enough, keep hazardous materials such as prescription medications, alcohol, and (if you smoke) cigarettes in places inaccessible to your children. It seems obvious, but children are naturally curious little people – and if it’s within reach or view, they are more likely to put it in their mouth to see what it does, than if they cannot see or get to it. Many prescription drugs might look like candy to a small child. Keep it in a place where it is inaccessible.
Third, model the behavior you would like to see in your children. Kids are imitators – they like to do what adults around them do. If you chain smoke, there’s a good chance that Johnny might sneak into your purse when you’re not looking to try a cigarette. Children may want to try beer to do what dad does – it’s important to remember to drink responsibly if you choose to imbibe. This is another case where communication with your children is vital.
It seems like common sense to take actions to prevent children from getting into things they just shouldn’t get into – however, with accidental overdoses and drunken preschoolers becoming more common in the media, it is important to remember that little people don’t think like big people – they don’t know that what they are putting in their mouths might injure or even kill them.