February 20, 2017

Teach Children Emergency Basics

This can be controversial, but I think one that should seriously be considered. Often I read or hear of a child being a hero because they had been taught how to dial 911, or had heard about it from adult conversations and just did it, or they just do something to help save a life.

On one of the diabetes discussion groups about seven years ago, a person was asking how to get a judge to stop visitation and joint custody rights to prevent her two children from being exposed to their father (a type1) when he has hypoglycemic episodes. She was very adamant in preventing them from witnessing their father at these times. I was proud of the people in the group who asked how often this happened, was he known for the episodes, and had she ever witnessed him have a hypoglycemic episode?

She was only aware of one time when he was at work and he was rushed to the hospital. Then she was asked if the children knew how to dial 911? She did not know and said that was not the issue. Because of the one hypoglycemic incident, she wanted to be sure that he would not expose the children to any. Many felt she was doing this for her own selfish motives and asked if she had even talked to the children (ages 9 and 12) about their feelings. She never answered so I think the people were correct.

The idea of teaching our children to dial 911 is an excellent idea. At what age should they be taught? This may well depend on the children, the family circumstances, and the general health of the parent(s) or family members. Of course, they must understand that this is for emergencies only.

As to teaching the children about handling chronic diseases and the possible effects like hypoglycemia or seizures, this is will depend on the child or children and their willingness to help and be part of the support structure within the family. If an episode happens and the children or child goes running to hide, then they may not be ready.

If the children or child stays and observes, then afterward asks questions, this is the time to start the conversation. Find out what they remember and if they feel that they could help. Do answer all their questions as completely as possible, or take them to the hospital or fire station (or where ever the emergency people are stationed) so that they can see where they are located and if possible, let them ask questions of the emergency personnel.

If the children balk at anything, do not force an issue. They often understand things better than we realize and are more resilient than we give them credit. It is best to let things progress at their (the child's) pace. Just be there for them, answer their questions honestly to the best of your ability and ask them if they would like to hear an explanation from a person knowledgeable about the question they asked. Do not forget if they answer yes. It may take time to develop resources to ask questions to, but this will show the children that you care and will follow through.

Teach them at their pace and as much as they want to learn. Then ask them some questions to see how much they retain. You may be pleasantly surprised. Never force them into areas where they do not want to go, but encourage them at every opportunity.

I am not a professional and not trained in this. These are my opinions and feelings from observations of some families with chronic illnesses/diseases and how they handled sensitive or emergency situations. These children are now very knowledgeable and are assisting in many ways in our society today, and I think this because of the circumstances they were exposed to as children.

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