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I’m not going to use the A-word. This is not a ParenTip about anthrax.

This is written to remind parents about all the things they CAN and should do to keep their children healthy and safe.

o BUCKLE EVERYBODY IN BEFORE YOU START THE CAR. Including yourself. Unfortunately there are parents who buckle up the kids but not themselves. Bad idea. What a dumb way to orphan your children. Plus kids are apt to do what we do, not what we say, when they get old enough to choose for themselves.

o No bike rides without BICYCLE HELMETS. Again that goes for parents as well as kids.

o Keep all IMMUNIZATIONS UP TO DATE. Most parents start out doing what they are supposed to do about taking the children to the doctor for check-ups but as the kids get older the parents get more casual. Teens need to be seen too and they need immunization boosters.

o Make your house and car a NO SMOKING ZONE. There is no question that children exposed to secondhand smoke have a higher incidence of respiratory problems. If you really want your children to have a good shot at good health free from all sorts of diseases like emphysema and lung cancer don’t smoke yourself. Once again kids do what we do not what we say. Also hang a no-smoking sign on your front door so visitors know the rules.

o CHILDPROOF your home so the little ones don’t get injured. Protect them from toxic substances, falls, burns, cuts, drowning. You know the drill. But there is an additional role for parents: SUPERVISE your older children. Some parents assume that once their kids reach school age they will be OK. But these children still need supervision when dealing with dangerous items like sharp kitchen knives and power tools and they need reminders about bike helmets and other safety rules.

Supervision is also a key to safety in teens. Graduated driver licensing restrictions (such as driving under parental supervision for a specified number of months during the day and a longer period at night) can cut down the rate of teen driver accidents.

o MINIMIZE JUNK FOOD and maximize fruits, veggies, and grains in your house. One trick I have learned through the years is to make your kitchen cabinets a junk-free zone. Keep healthy snacks around but lose the Halloween candy quick. When the kids (or you) have a craving for something sweet, hit the frozen yogurt or ice cream shop but don’t bring any home with you.

o MAXIMIZE EXERCISE. Set an example by scheduling family walks or bike rides.

o MINIMIZE TV. Resolve to only watch the news once or twice a day lest you see the same horror all day long. Also little couch potatoes become grown-up couch potatoes with poor health habits.

One good thing the A-word has done is give parents a wake-up call. The questions I get center around the awesome responsibility parents feel to keep their children safe. Yes, it is awesome but it’s our job until our kids are old enough to take care of themselves and make their own decisions.

A little fear is a good thing–it reminds us how important our job is. But too much fear can be paralyzing. My suggestion: do what you can to keep your children safe. Individuals have no control over terrorism; solving that big problem is the job of our government in conjunction with governments of other nations. You’ll feel better if you do what you can instead of worrying about what you can’t do.

Finally, minimize any displays of your worries. Do all you can to make your household a place of love and peace in these troubled times. Be honest with your kids and let them verbalize their concerns but also be able to say, “We’re not going to talk about that any more today. We need some bliss time together.” And do what makes your family blissful. One woman told me she had a special party for the whole family putting photos of the ones who were far away on the table. Or have a surprise Birthday Party for Everyone complete with cake and candles even if it’s nobody’s birthday. Spend time outdoors together. Nature is healing.

And don’t worry about whether your family will be affected by the A-word. Physically this is most unlikely. Emotionally, only if you let fear rule your household.