Q & A: Tips for a safe and sane holiday season

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Safety Tips for the Holiday Season

When I grew up, there were no helmets for downhill skiing. We also skied in blue jeans, which I understand isn’t too smart either. How concerned should I be about concussions and my 10-year old son, who just started ski racing? And what should I look for in a helmet?

First, let me say: you can have your cake and eat it, too. Yes, the best of both worlds: Boulder Gear is actually manufacturing fitted, flare-bottom ski bibs that look like 1970s denim, but with all the synthetic properties to keep you warm.

But enough about your fashion: Safety for your 10-year-old.

“From frostbite, dehydration, and sunburn to concussions, sprained ankles, and broken wrists, be sure your kids know and follow safety tips to help avoid and prevent injuries,” explains Dr. Brooks Booker with Bend Memorial Clinic Pediatrics, adding, “it’s important to keep your kids warm and get the right gear: goggles and a helmet made for snow sports. Look for a helmet that meets ASTM, Snell, or CEN standards. Also, be sure to add wrist guards for snowboarding.”

The National Ski Areas Association, which tracks participation and injuries, has spotted encouraging trends over the past 20 years as equipment and styles have changed. Notably, overall rates for alpine ski injuries have declined by nearly half since the 1970s. However—and troubling—the rate of injuries for snowboarders doubled from 3.37 injuries per 1,000 visits in 1990 to 6.97 per 1,000 visits in 2000-2001. It is highest in males, and children under 17 years of age.

The good news? It is generally the rule not the exception for children to wear helmets. The trends toward safer skiing have corresponded with the introduction of helmets to the sport. In 2002, only 25 percent of skiers/boarders wore helmets. Now, 91 percent of children under 9 do; a number that drifts a bit lower in the teen years, and hits its lowest with only 53 percent of 18-24 year olds wearing helmets.

And, more good news? The introduction of shorter skis have corresponded with a decline in knee injuries.

Do you have any recommendations for doing—or not doing—New Year resolutions with our kids—aged six
and ten?

Yes! New Year resolutions, if done right, can be both productive and fun. Certainly make them positive—meaning, instead of concentrating on something like corrective behavior, as adults often do when pledging to lose weight or exercise more, create positive examples. Consider instead of a “resolution,” have them write down two or three “wishes” and “hopes” for the New Year. For your older child, have him or her make a specific goal, like “open a bank account, and save $100,” or “study more, and earn all As this semester.”

Of course, resolutions are notoriously broken (a study by the University of Scranton reports only 8 percent are ever completed). To keep your kids’ resolutions, hopes and wishes as a reminder, have your kids write their resolutions on a piece of paper, put them in an envelope and then bury them at the base of a favorite tree in the front yard—or, if the ground is frozen where you live, buy a small house plant and place the note in the dirt. As the plant grows, it can be a reminder about their pledges.

It seems like every Christmas dinner ends with tension and terse words. Grandma is often cranky, and Uncle Larry has more opinions than fingers and toes. Should we just skip this year?

No! Warts and all, family is part of the holidays. In her article, “Tips for Dealing with Difficult People at Family Holiday Gatherings,” family therapist and author of Tending Fences: Building Safe and Healthy Relationship Boundaries, Terry Barnett-Martin gives some simple reminders, like “don’t expect others to change,” and “be aware and prepare,” meaning recognizing—and protecting—your trigger points. Don’t engage with Uncle Larry’s criticisms. Smile, and comment on the weather or the cranberry sauce. Barnett-Martin also recommends “using the power of imagination,” which for me is a game I invented called the “Sitcom Syndrome,” in which I translate annoying relatives into sitcom characters so that when Grandma Betty nitpicks about the turkey’s dryness, instead of getting frustrated, I insert a laugh track in my head (best not to do outloud, though!). It transforms frustration into fun. And, remember, you can set the tone for the rest of your family.

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