~ From my personal blog Love, Light, Laughter, and Chocolate ~
I've spent the better part of the last several weeks writing. Blog posts, Facebook posts, and Twitter posts on multiple sites and pages I manage. I've also spent a good deal of time reading and commenting on the posts of others. This post and it's subject matter have been swimming in my head for several weeks.
The crux of it is, we need to talk. There needs to be a conversation that not only starts, but continues. It's already started, but the focus is not where it needs to be. Perhaps I can help shift to focus to where it should be. Where it needs to be.
Most of the conversation the past few weeks has revolved around two things. Child Safety and kids dying. Two things I am clearly passionate about, and for me, have been part of my conversations for the past ten years. It wasn't my choice to have these passions. It was born of circumstance. Circumstances that are now part of the fabric of who I am, what I do, and why I write.
Oddly, it seems many people don't understand how these two things go together. Or, perhaps more accurately, they do understand, but they don't want to think about it. They don't want it thrown in their face. Especially at a time when they are having a good time, gathered with friends and family, and expecting to be entertained by both by the people around them and what they are watching on TV.
Yes, I'm referring to the Superbowl and the highly controversial Nationwide ad for Make Safe Happen. I've written about it before and you can refer to that post for my feelings on the ad itself.
Having read many comments on many social media, news, and blog sites, I am saddened. Not just because so many people did not *get* the message, but the actual reason they did not get the message or outright refused to get the message, even when it was explained to them. DEATH SCARES THE S*IT OUT OF PEOPLE. Especially when it's about kids.
Death: Don't Wanna Even...
Am I wrong? Does the thought of a loved one dying, especially suddenly and unexpectedly, scare the pants off you? You don't want to think about it do you? You certainly don't want to think about what it would be like to get that phone call, that visit to your door from an officer, or the doctor and the social worker at the door of your loved one's hospital room. So many people refuse to create wills, health care proxies or power of attorney documents because they just don't want to think about death. Or think they can put it off until "later" and then, when death comes, later turns out to be tomorrow...
You fear your spouse having a heart attack or being in a fatal car accident. You know your loved one with cancer is fighting for their life but you don't want to consider they might not win, even if they have. You absolutely don't want to ever have to go to a child's wake or funeral because it's just too hard to even think about, let alone have it be for YOUR CHILD.
So what do you do instead? You get pissed off when someone else confronts you with it. Especially if they confront you with it out of nowhere, when you were not expecting it. Even worse, if it's a time when you are gathered with friends and family in celebration.
Guess what. That's the point. That's what it's like for thousands of people every single day. Their perfectly happy lives are shattered when a loved one suddenly and unexpectedly dies. Death, like that ad, doesn't come when you are "ready" for it. It does not always come with a warning. It comes when it damn well pleases. Sometimes you can prepare for it, sometimes you cannot. Sometimes there are things you can do to prevent it, sometimes there are not. There is no good time for a loved one to die. None.
There was no better time to air that Nationwide ad. Why? A huge audience, full of parents. Who is their target audience? Parents. What was their goal? Education and yes, maybe even shock value. They wanted to get your attention, and they did. The message, preventable accidents are the # 1 cause of death to children and a kid can die just this fast, and when they do, this is how it feels. Don't like it? MAKE SAFE HAPPEN. It was that simple.
Misplaced Emotions or No Idea What to do with Them?
Of course people got pissed off. How dare Nationwide make me confront a subject I'm not comfortable with? How dare they do it when *I* am having a good time? How dare they not warn me they were going to "kill" my Superbowl buzz by killing a kid? They (you?) didn't want their happy family and friends feel good party "ruined." I get it.
Neither did I. On December 18th, 2004 I was supposed to be wrapping Christmas gifts and making cookies and crafts with my kids. Instead, I woke up to find my daughter crushed beneath her dresser. I spent half the day at hospitals. I came home with a box of her hand and foot prints and a lock of her hair. And overwhelming guilt. She went to the morgue. I didn't want Christmas ruined in 2004 (and for the rest of my life) when instead, I had to bury my daughter who died from a preventable tip-over accident 3 days before Christmas. I COULD HAVE PREVENTED HER DEATH!
Your Superbowl party might have been brought down by a commercial. My entire life came crashing down around me when my daughter died from a preventable accident. One I could have prevented, had I known of the danger. Had I believed the danger. Had I known the statistics. If only... Their goal was to educate you so you don't ever have to know what it's like to be me. Get it? That ad, might have saved my daughter's life if I'd seen it ten years ago.
Despite my pain, despite the trigger, I loved the ad. Why? IT CAN SAVE LIVES! It can prevent you from ever having to feel the pain I do. The pain millions of parents feel every year. The pain of losing a child to something you could have prevented. I already live with the pain of losing a child. An ad is not going to change that. If only it were that easy...
So I'm sorry your SuperBowl viewing experience was ruined for a few minutes. Really. But guess what? You then went back to your eating, drinking, laughing, and regularly scheduled life. My "regular" life is nothing like it was supposed to be. I'm sorry, but get over it.
Must Know Info: Grief is a Journey and it Lasts a Lifetime
You know, it's also interesting to me how many bereaved parents were outraged. They slammed Nationwide for being insensitive to bereaved parents. That bereaved parents were triggered by the commercial and it should not have been shown during the Superbowl. That showing an ad that depicted a child dying was in poor taste. They were angry they were watching with the bereaved siblings of the child that died, and they siblings may have also been upset by the trigger. Or fellow bereaved family members who took offense to their escapist Superbowl viewing being hijacked by a commercial that reminded them of their loss.
Look, I get it. I am a bereaved parent. I know the spot was a trigger. I know it blindsided people whether they had ever lost a child or not. Grief is forever. Triggers happen. They suck. I hate them as much as the next person. I knew what was coming and I still cried when it aired. It was powerful and compelling. Nationwide did not deliberately try to upset bereaved parents. Parents who did not lose a child to a preventable accident may have also missed the point of the ad, because of their own grief. That's understandable. Would there have been a "good" or "better" time to air that ad? If it triggered you then, it would have triggered you whenever you happened to see it. Perhaps you'd have been less likely to see it if it were not aired during the Superbowl.
Many of us prefer to be alone in our grief, or when triggered unexpectedly, but what about the benefit of having the support of others in our grief? What about taking advantage of having friends and family around to support each other, have a conversation, and help us work through our grief? Especially when something like this happens? That was the gift inside of this commercial for families who are bereaved for any reason, but especially the loss of a child. The opportunity to start or continue the conversation about death and grief. Of course if your loss was recent, this is often harder to do and I am sensitive to that. Really, I am.
Even if you had not ever lost a child, if you didn't like the ad during the Superbowl, you would not have liked it any better during your favorite reality, sitcom, or drama show, either.
Let's be real and honest here. Your objection to the ad was not *really* that it aired during the Superbowl. It was that it involved the death of a child and it made you uncomfortable. That discomfort was likely amplified by the fact you were probably in a social environment, and with other people who were equally uncomfortable with a serious subject like the death of a child. You probably did not have much experience discussing death and/or are uncomfortable with it, or even if you did, you might have felt peer pressure to go along with the crowd and their reaction. Chances are you stuffed whatever emotion the ad dredged up in you, or, impulsively blamed Nationwide for YOUR discomfort with the death of a child (and likely completely missing the point of the ad), and went back to the party and the game.
I was watching with my two sons, who are obviously bereaved siblings. We talked about it right after it aired. They were not upset by it. They *got* it. Once they understood the reason the ad was made that way, and what it was really about, they were able to see the benefit. They were proud their sister is helping to save lives through Meghan's Hope and my involvement with the Nationwide Make Safe Happen campaign.
Why were my kids not upset? Probably largely because we *do* talk about death in this house. We talk about how Meggie died, why she died, and what we can do to prevent it from happening to others. I don't shelter them from death, I never have and I never will. Even when they were 3 and 6 the day she died, they were involved in all of it in an age-appropriate way. We are an open, honest, real family. We talk about triggers and that it can be upsetting when things remind us of her and the way she died. We talked about how others might not feel the same way we do and why. I want my kids to understand and be comfortable talking about death.
While talking about triggers, what about the 911 ad? How do you think victims of domestic violence felt about that ad? Don't you think it was a trigger for them? What about people who lost children to cancers or other illness and their reaction to the St. Jude commercial? What about alcoholics and people who lost loved ones to drunk driving and all the beer commercials? Triggers can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime and for any reason. Yes, for those who have lost a loved one and especially a child they may be more intense, but there are other kinds of losses that cause just as strong of a grief reaction.
To a point, we can only relate to what we know and what we believe to be true. When it comes to grief, everyone does it differently. Everyone brings to any discussion their personal, cultural, religious and spiritual beliefs along with their personal life experience.
The Power of Choice
Yet we always have a choice. We can choose to be pissed off and self-absorbed about our personal feelings about anything, in this case the Nationwide ad, and the fact they used a child that died from a preventable accident to educate parents that preventable accidents are the #1 cause of death to children. That their kids could be at risk. Really. Not someone else's kids. THEIR kids. YOUR kids.
Nationwide made it real. Reality, when it involves death, makes most of us uncomfortable.
Instead of getting the message. Instead of going to the makesafehappen website or checking out the app to see what it was all about, people lashed out against Nationwide for "killing a kid during the Superbowl." They chose to place blame on Nationwide for how it made them feel. Nationwide did not "make" you feel or do anything. That's all you. They created an emotional, compelling, PSA. How you chose to react to it was all you. Really, we need to start owning our feelings, understanding them, and stop blaming others, no matter what it is we feel. The only person responsible for how you feel is you.
Let me say that again. The only person responsible for how you feel is you.
I propose it was much less about how people felt about the commercial itself and a whole lot more about how death-averse we are as a society. People missed both messages embedded in that commercial. In doing so, they missed both an opportunity to learn more about preventable accidents and making kids safer and they missed the opportunity to have a real, honest, and important conversation about death, dying, and grief.
The Conversation Begging to be Had
Here is the thing. Death is part of life. We are all going to die. We all know that, but no one seems to want to actually acknowledge it until they have no choice. Yes, we would love to believe that we will all live long, happy, healthy and full lives and die of old age when we are damn good and ready to.
Except life doesn't always work that way.
People die. Some after living long, fulfilling, wonderful lives. Some before they are born. Some die of horrible diseases they did not ask for or deserve. Some die in car accidents or plane crashes that were no fault of their own. Some will have a heart attack or stroke with no risk factors or warning signs. Some die trying to save the lives of others like the members of our armed forces or first responders. Some are horribly murdered. Some commit suicide. Some die in an accident that may have been preventable. Sometimes the victims of these accidents are kids.
There is never a good time to lose someone we love. When kids die, it hits us especially hard. Even if we don't know them. Why? Kids are not supposed to die. Certainly not before their parents. Of course not everything that takes the life of a child can be prevented. But many accidents can be prevented. Why would you not want to do everything you can to protect children so they have every opportunity to live long, happy, and healthy lives?
Nationwide started a conversation. They want to educate people that accidents are the #1 cause of death to children. They want to teach parents and those who care for children what the dangers are and how to make their homes and their children safer. It's that simple. It's that important. They provided a wonderful resource and information in the Make Safe Happen website and app. They want to save the lives of children.
I want to take it one step further. Let's also let it be a catalyst for talking about death, dying, and grief. Let's learn how to support others who have lost someone they love. Let's learn how to support someone who is dying and those who love them. Let's talk to our families about what would be important to us when we are facing the end of life or after we die. I've tried to start this conversation, at least with regard to understanding and supporting bereaved parents, with my book Out of the Darkness.
What you can do
I ask of you two things.
First, If you've not yet done so, please visit the Make Safe Happen Website and download the app or, if you don't have young children in your life, share it with someone who does. Learn what Nationwide's ad was really about.
Second, make a date on your calendar to talk to your spouse, significant other, children, family members and/or friends about what would be important to you if you were dying. What you'd want after you die for services. Create a health care proxy, power of attorney, and will if you've not done so already. Don't wait for a health crisis, or for when you get older, or allow it to be put off over and over again. Do it now. It will make everything so much easier when death does come knocking for everyone involved.
Be the change.
Meghan’s Hope and Nationwide are partners in the Make Safe Happen campaign. While all opinions expressed here are my own, I have received compensation from Nationwide for promotion of their Make Safe Happen campaign materially or financially.
Yesterday, I read a news story about the family of Ryeley and Brooklyn Beatty, two sisters who were tragically killed in their home when a dresser fell on them. The family is now suing Babies R Us and the manufacturer of the dresser for not including tip-restraints and warning labels with the dresser when they bought it.
It made me wonder... who should be responsible for preventing tip-overs? Should it be the manufacturer? The stores that sell the furniture? The consumers, who are mostly parents, grandparents, and responsible adults who may or may not have children in their home? All three?
The CPSC Tip Over Information Center reports that 71 children every single day are victims of a tip-over accident. That's 3 children every single hour. In the time it took me to write this post alone, 3 children have had a piece of furniture, a TV, or an appliance fall on them!
Preventable accidents are the leading cause of death to children. Preventable is the key word. Tip-overs are preventable!
Thanks to the work of the Consumer Product Safety Commission with ASTM (a voluntary standards organization), catalyzed in part by two bills introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives titled The Katie Elise and Meghan Agnes Act (2005 and 2009), in which we asked for warning labels and restraints to be sold with furniture, there is now a VOLUNTARY furniture safety standard for warnings and tip-restraints.
The problems with the current standards
This standard is a step in the right direction, but it has serious flaws that I'd like to see addressed and amended. For one, it's voluntary, not mandatory. Many manufacturers follow it, but many others do not. Some are adamantly resisting it! One of the problems with it is that the standard does not apply to all furniture, only storage furniture of a certain size, height, and design.
The standard also does not specify the type of restraint that must be included. Many of the restraints are cheap and some are downright insufficient. The anchors included with the furniture are not actually tested to see if they will safely hold the weight of the furniture, fully loaded and with a child climbing on it, nor is there any official or mandatory standard for testing. This needs to change and become part of the standard.
Furthermore, there is no standard for testing ANY of the restraints sold in stores and many do not indicate what their weight capacity is, either, and that also needs to change! It not only puts the child at risk, but also the manufacturer, as evidenced by the increasing number of lawsuits in tip-over cases.
Installation instructions vary and may be insufficient (not indicating the need to secure into a stud, using drywall anchors, attaching it to a solid wood part of the furniture, not press board, the fact more than one restraint may be needed, screws being too short, cable ties that become brittle or break or won't hold significant weight, etc.) leading parents to install the restraints incorrectly or giving them a false sense of security. They may think that if they install the restraint that comes with the furniture, their child is protected. That may not be true. Kids could still be at risk.
Myths and Misconceptions vs. truth and reality
Far too many people think it's just dressers or furniture designed for kids' rooms that is a tip-over hazard and that's just not true.
ALL furniture and ALL TV's have the potential to tip-over and fall on a child. It is not just the furniture in your child's room or in a play room that needs to be secured.
Furniture in every room needs to be secured. Dressers, book shelves, armoires, TV stands and entertainment centers, nightstands, hutches, desks, grandfather clocks, cube style storage units, cabinets with doors and/or shelves, file cabinets, corner or curio cabinets, and changing tables. It could be the most expensive well-made piece in the world or cheap dollar store furniture. If it's not secured, it's all the same. It all can tip. Does it matter some tips more easily than others? Does it matter if it takes 10 pounds of force or 30 pounds to make it tip? Does it matter how big or small your child is or how much they weigh? Not if your kid ends up under it. The testing weight used by the CPSC is 50 pounds! Some furniture may be more likely than others to tip due to inherent instability or design, but unless they are secured properly to a stud in the wall, all furniture and all kids are at risk. Period. End of story.
There are no caveats. Furniture and TV's properly secured = kids safer. Furniture and TV's not (or improperly) secured= kids at risk of injury or death.
It all makes me shake my head. It would not cost the manufacturers much, and certainly nothing significant, to include a proper restraint and detailed installation instructions. That is a cost they could pass on to the consumer and wouldn't amount to more than a few dollars in reality. The cost for them to test the furniture with the restraint for safety is well worth it for the safety and well-being of their consumers. Lives are more important than bonuses and huge profit margins.
Is there any benefit in suing?
The news story that inspired this post indicated the parents were suing the store and the manufacturer of the dresser that fell and killed their girls. It all also begs the question, is suing anyone for the death of a child from a tip-over accident the *right* answer?
After Meghan died, some people encouraged us to sue the manufacturer of her dresser. My response, "Why? That is not going to bring Meghan back. It is not going to address the larger issue of furniture falling on kids. It's an issue bigger than one manufacturer. I don't want to waste their time or money or mine. I want to educate, inform, and change the SYSTEM. The INDUSTRY. What and how we educate parents about dangers in their homes..."
I did call the manufacturer, to inform them of her death and the danger. They were very responsive. Perhaps because they were afraid I'd sue them. Perhaps because they genuinely did not realize the danger and were grateful I informed them. Perhaps because the woman on the phone was a mother and could hear the pain in my voice when I told her my story. This was also before there was the awareness there is now about tip-overs, before restraints were as readily available in stores and online as they are today, before there was a voluntary safety standard, before the CPSC initiated their Anchor It campaign. Much of that was born of the work of parents like me, looking for answers and asking questions.
I know other parents who lost children to similar tragic, preventable accidents. Some chose to sue, some did not. I can not speak for them, only that they did what they felt they needed to do. I don't judge. I understand their motivation. I'm sure at least in part, their intention was as much to try to catalyze a change for the better in terms of safety as it was for financial compensation. Fear of lawsuits is a motivating factor for many companies, and perhaps, the fear of litigation will motivate them to make safer furniture and comply with the voluntary standard. It makes me sad that is what it takes to motivate companies to do their part to save lives.
There are now law firms who actually specialize in, advertise and market to, and encourage parents who have lost children or whose children have been severely injured in tip-over accidents to sue. Why? Is it about positive change or something else? Legislation? Revenge? Anger? Or is it just a way to make money off of a tragedy, for both lawyers and their clients?
While the financial rewards of a lawsuit can help to pay for medical or even funeral costs and lost wages after the death of a child, what the industry and society at large seems to be missing is it would cost a whole lot less to PREVENT IT FROM HAPPENING IN THE FIRST PLACE. Not only in dollars, but in lives that would be saved.
The bigger problem: Denial
Except, of course, no one ever thinks "it" could happen to them, right? "It" always happens to someone else. Bad parents. Neglectful parents. Poor parents who can't afford "good" furniture. Parents who can't "control" or don't discipline their kids "correctly." Denial is dangerous and could be downright deadly. So is making assumptions. Don't assume it can't or won't happen to you or your child. Don't think your social status or financial status magically makes your child any safer than another. Don't put the importance of your furniture or TV or appliance above your child's safety. Your child's life is far too important for that game.
Holes in furniture and in walls can be fixed. Holes in hearts left behind when your child's death could have been prevented cannot be. Trust me. I know.
Maybe people think it only happens with cheap or poorly made furniture, only tall or unstable furniture, only with dressers or shelving units, only with kids' furniture, or only in bedrooms or play rooms. I remind people Meghan's dresser was small, sturdy, and well-made by a top of the line juvenile furniture manufacturer. It can happen anywhere, anyplace, anytime and to anyone. In a home (yours or someone else's), in a school, in a child care facility, in a store, at a meeting space (cub or girl scouts, religious education, activity spaces like gyms or dance studios), even to adults and the elderly in nursing homes or senior centers!
My question is who is really served by lawsuits? Who does it help and how? One family at a time? While it may bring solace and financial resources to a family, what about other children who are at risk? Maybe it gets one company to change it's ways, force a recall, or to comply with the voluntary standard in part, but for how long and how safe are they really going to be? (see above part about quality of restraints and documentation included for warnings and installation) Is it a good use of resources?
Here's the thing
Given the amount of money spent on lawsuits on both sides, it seems to me that instead of giving all that money to attorneys, manufacturing companies could easily provide quality, appropriate, and weight tested restraints that adhere to a reasonable mandatory safety standards, for every piece of furniture and every TV sold instead, included with it when it's sold. Why don't they do that?! Everybody wins and kids have the potential to be safer!
What it is going to take to stop tip-overs
We can stop kids from being injured and killed by furniture, TV, and appliance tip-overs. Easily. By securing the furniture and TV's and appliances to the wall. So why is it still happening?
Because it is going to take a coordinated effort by all involved parties to take the risk seriously. Until everyone including parents, educators, regulatory bodies, retailers, manufacturers, and consumers are aware of the dangers, begin to take the issue of tip-over seriously and all do their part to educate, inform, and prevent, kids are going to keep dying. The current state of awareness and compliance is not acceptable. We all need to work together for the greater good of all of our children.
So to answer my own question... We are all responsible. Everyone from parents and end consumers to the regulatory agencies, manufacturers and everyone in between needs to do their part. We need to work together for the greater good.
Here is my call to action:
This is not about what's best for whose bottom line. It's not about how to get around the standard that does exist because it's only voluntary. It's not about bad vs. good. This is about safety. This is about saving lives. The lives of our children. We have warnings on plastic bags. We have laws about seat belts in cars and car seat use. This is no different. We've identified a very real danger to children that is taking lives needlessly. We know how to prevent it. Slowly, people are becoming more aware and some of them are taking the proper steps to make their homes safer. Many more are still not aware or simply don't believe in the danger.
Preventable accidents are the #1 cause of death to children. We can easily reduce the number of children being injured and killed by tip-overs if everyone focuses on the end goal. It's about the children. It's about keeping them safe. It's about education and prevention. We need to get the information and the tools into the hands of the consumers who then need to follow through and actually secure the furniture.
What do we need to do?
The agencies that make policy, manufacturers, retailers and perhaps even lawmakers need to stop their bickering, posturing, political game playing and cut the red tape. Kids are dying while you are padding your profits and dragging your feet on creating standards/laws that could protect children. Why does it have to take so long? It's not rocket science.
Regulatory bodies need to set standards based on standardized testing. They need to be mandatory and they need to apply to all furniture and all anchors/restraints.
The manufacturers need to make safe furniture that comes with warning labels, appropriate weight-tested restraints with clear, easy to understand, and appropriate installation instructions. If that means we have to make laws or mandatory standards for them to actually comply, then so be it. I don't understand why it takes that much time and effort (and it takes forever) to change these safety requirements and why they seem not to care about the lives of children, but until it's their kid or grandchild that dies, they probably won't ever *get* it... it's so sad that's what it takes for so many people to wake up to the dangers and motivate them to do something to prevent it.
Stores and retailers need to educate consumers about the dangers of tip-over by securing display furniture and TV's properly, selling third-party restraints like those made by Safety 1st, KidCo, and others, and having informational posters or pamphlets displayed with the furniture and TV's to alert and educate consumers. Displaying and selling furniture and TV straps right along with other childproofing supplies should happen everywhere childproofing supplies are sold. Straps should also be displayed and available for purchase next to furniture and TV's that are for sale, and store employees trained to educate consumers on the importance of using them to safely secure TV's and furniture to the walls.
Consumers need to take these warnings seriously and use the restraints to secure their furniture, TV's and even appliances properly. They need to share this information with family and friends.
Hospitals and pediatricians need to give this information on tip-over prevention to parents just like they give other important child safety information when they have their well-child visits or at any other teachable moment.
Those in a position to educate parents in any capacity such as pre-school or elementary school teachers, childbirth educators, CPR and First Aid instructors, WIC, health insurance companies, urgent care centers, and child care facilities, should at a minimum, provide an informational brochure or pamphlet about these dangers such as the one I've designed for Meghan's Hope and ideally, offer educational seminars for parents where they can learn about all aspects of child safety.
The media needs to follow up and do their part in reporting not only when a child is injured or killed, but what can be done to prevent it and where to find anchoring devices and more information. Doing public interest stories on news or talk shows watched by parents and grandparents about Meghan's Hope and tip-over prevention has the power to help so many more people than the latest cute animal videos can.
Parents hold the ultimate responsibility. Your kids are, after all, your kids. You are in the end the only one responsible for their care. While yes, all of the previously mentioned entities have a role and a responsibility, there is currently no law or requirement that they do the right thing. Even if they do, when you put that new piece of furniture together or your new TV arrives, even if it comes with an anti-tip restraint, you have to be the one to actually use it to secure it to the wall. Furniture, TV's and appliances don't secure themselves. It is up to you in the end to take the appropriate steps to protect your children.
You must educate yourself and take the necessary and proper steps to protect your children from the things you can protect them from, like tip-overs. No parent can protect their child from everything, but this, you can. We have an awesome responsibility as parents to balance keeping our kids safe with allowing them to learn, grow, and explore their world. By making their environment safer, we allow them to do that work of being a child - play - in a safer world. Our gift is in watching them grow older and perhaps, one day gift us with grandchildren.
I will never see my little girl graduate, get married, or do all the things I imagined and hoped she would. Because she died under her dresser while we slept. No child deserves that fate. No parent should ever have to live with that pain. I don't have a choice. You do. Because of Meghan and her hope, you do...
My goal is to work with all of these elements and protect the lives of kids. My position is one of education and advocacy. I am Meghan's voice. I am the voice of the children whose lives were cut short from a tip-over. I am the voice of their parents who say the same thing I do. We don't want it to ever happen again.
Clearly, I can't do it alone. Together, though, we can stop the tip-over epidemic.
Let's do this.
By now, you've seen the Nationwide SuperBowl ad for #makesafehappen and have heard the chatter about it. What did you think about it? It has certainly stirred up a lot of controversy and definitely got people talking! It was a powerful and emotional ad and the purpose was to raise awareness about the preventable accidents that take the lives of children every day. It was about child safety and about the new child safety initiative called Make Safe Happen.
Many people were upset that such a somber ad about a child who couldn't grow up to do all the things kids do because he died from a preventable accident was aired during the SuperBowl. They were upset that they were blindsided by an ad that was not funny and that it ruined their "buzz." Many who took offense thought the ad was trying to sell life insurance simply because it was presented by Nationwide, and that doing so by making an ad about a dead child was horribly wrong. They were so shocked that many didn't see the link to the make safe happen website at the end. Or if they did, they probably didn't go to it to see what it was about. Instead of actually taking the time to process the ad and what it's message actually was, instead of going to the Make Safe Happen website to see what it was all about, they took their knee-jerk reaction and assumption that it was solely about selling insurance as gospel and preached it. You know what they say about assuming, right?
Why so Many Missed the Point of the Ad
Unfortunately those people who were upset largely missed the point. Perhaps because the ad elicited such a powerful emotional reaction and one they were ill-equipped to handle. That speaks to an entirely different issue about our discomfort in talking about death, especially death to children, but that is another post for another time.
Nationwide was not trying to sell insurance with that ad. Insurance doesn't save lives. Nationwide is trying to educate. They wanted to inform an audience of millions of parents that preventable accidents are the leading cause of death to children. Knowing what the dangers in and around your home are, knowing what you can do to prevent the accidents that could take your child's life,and being pro-active about doing them to making safe happen is what saves lives.
THAT is what Nationwide was "selling." They are "selling" a free resource for child safety called Make Safe Happen. They are giving you resources to help you protect your kids so you never, ever have to know what bereaved parents like me knows. So that you never have to live with the pain we live with every day because we couldn't protect our kids, because we didn't know or believe that what killed them was a danger or how to prevent it.
I do hope that once their initial shock wears off, those who reacted so strongly and negatively are able to go to the make safe happen website and see what it is all about. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and I'm all for free choice, but I am a staunch believer in informed choice. So before you judge a book by it's cover, read the pages inside the book. Visit the website and see what it has to offer. Whether you agree with how it was presented during the Superbowl or not, the information is tremendously valuable for parents everywhere.
For Those Who Think the Ad was "too much" or a "buzzkill" for the SuperBowl
To those who still think the ad was "too much" for the SuperBowl viewing audience or those who complain the ad made them uncomfortable. Consider this. What you felt for those few seconds when you realized that boy in the ad died is exactly how it feels when your child dies suddenly and unexpectedly from a preventable accident. You feel blindsided. You are in shock. You are angry. You are downright furious that your life as you knew and expected it to be was suddenly and unexpectedly "ruined." You may have felt all those things about the very thought of a child dying when you saw this ad. The boy in the ad was one you don't even know! Imagine what it's like to actually be the parent of that boy in the ad. For one minute, just imagine if it were you... does that help you shift your focus? Nationwide does not want you to ever know what it feels like to be the parent of that boy. They want your kids to grow up to live long healthy lives.
Unlike those who were upset by the ad, who complained about it to their friends or took to social media to express their anger that Nationwide ruined their SuperBowl, and then went back to watching the game and resumed their regularly scheduled lives, parents who have lost a child, especially to an accident that could have been prevented, live with that "buzzkill" their entire lives. They never get to resume their life as they knew or wanted it to be. They had to bury their child. They have to learn to live without the most precious thing in the world, their child. They are reminded of their child every day and every where. They are reminded of what they don't have, and you do. They don't want you to know the pain they do. Neither does Nationwide, their partner Safe Kids, or any of their other expert partners in child safety. We want to teach you how to protect your kids so you don't ever have to know what it's like to lose a child to something you could have prevented.
We know that in the time it took that 45 second spot to air, at least one child died from a preventable accident. If you do the math, that's 60 children every hour! In the approximately 4 hours it took for the 4 quarters of the SuperBowl to be played, 12 children were victims of tip-over accidents alone!
So What is Make Safe Happen Really About?
Make Safe Happen is about addressing the fact that preventable accidents are #1 killer of children. Nationwide was starting a conversation that I have been trying to get started for ten years. And it sure did get a conversation started! Sometimes you have to shock people out of complacency to get them to pay attention and to listen to the messages they don't want to hear. Messages they need to hear. Their child's life may literally depend on it.
In a longer PSA, Nationwide explains their Make Safe Happen campaign here. Their ad was a wake up call and parents need to answer it. Nationwide has a long history of commitment to child safety and a 60 year relationship with Nationwide Children's Hospital and their leading child safety expert physicians and researchers at their Center for Injury Research and Policy. Nationwide is not doing this alone. They have also partnered with Safe Kids Worldwide and leading child safety experts in key areas of child safety including myself at Meghan's Hope, The Safety Mom, The Zac Foundation, Parents for Window Blind Safety and The National Drowning Prevention Alliance. Together, we are all committed to making parents aware of potential dangers to their children and teaching them how to prevent them from happening.
The Make Safe Happen website is an interactive and easy to use site that allows you to search for safety information and tips about common and little known dangers in and around the home. You can search by the age of the child, the room of the home, or the safety category such as water safety, poisoning, tip-overs and falls, or outdoor play. You will find statistics, safety checklists, and safety tips. Visit it today. Explore the different ways to search for safety tips. Share it with other parents you know.
There is a also free downloadable app for IOS and Android with a similar interface that also allows you to make a list of things you need to do or buy to make your home safer and is a fantastic reference to have when you are out and about with your child or shopping for child safety devices and supplies. Download it and give it a try!
None of us knows everything. We cannot protect our children from everything, but the things we can protect them from, we should. Accidents can be prevented. Thinking it can't or won't happen to us does not make our kids safer. Learning what we can do to make our homes and our children safer and then doing it, is what makes our kids safer. Together, we can make safe happen!
Disclaimer: While all opinions stated here are my own, I am a paid spokesperson for Nationwide and the Make Safe Happen Campaign and have received financial, material, or other compensation for promoting the Make Safe Happen Campaign.
As you all know, the issue of home safety is incredibly personal to me and to the members of my family. I created this blog to raise awareness about all aspects of child safety in the hope that fewer and fewer parents would experience the kind of loss that I have known. Today, I ask for your help.
As I've said many times before, Meghan’s death could have been prevented, if only we were aware of the dangers and took the proper steps to prevent it. No parent should ever have to experience the pain of seeing their child suffer a life-altering and debilitating injury or worse, the death of their child, especially from something that could have been prevented.
I recently posted on the Meghan’s Hope Facebook page that according to the CDC, preventable accidents are the leading cause of death in children. Half of those preventable accidents happen in and around the home!
Surprisingly, despite those statistics, a recent survey conducted by Nationwide identifies a significant gap in awareness of these facts, with only 28% of parents or caregivers correctly identifying that the leading cause of childhood death is preventable accidents.
The reason for this disparity between the statistics and the fact the majority of parents are unaware of the fact accidents is the leading cause of death to children? Nearly two-thirds of parents surveyed think they are doing an acceptable job keeping their children safe at home. They likely mistakenly think their kids are as safe as they can be. Possibly, because they are either unaware of the dangers that lurk in their homes, or, are aware of the dangers, but don’t take them seriously, thinking for some reason, “it” can’t happen to their child.
Parents who have lost their children to preventable accidents know all too well “it” can happen to your child. To help these parents who have suffered the most unimaginable and painful of losses, I recently published Out of the Darkness: Coping with and Recovering From the Death of a Child, to offer support to other parents and those who love and support them in their journey after the death of a child.
My mission at Meghan’s Hope is twofold. To help bereaved parents is only one part of Meghan's Hope. The primary purpose of of Meghan's Hope is, and always will be, to teach parents how to be safety smart, so they don’t ever need my book.
However, I am all too aware that no one can tackle the important issue of child safety alone. Last week, Nationwide announced they are partnering with two leaders in child safety, Safe Kids Worldwide and Nationwide Children’s Hospital, in a new awareness campaign called Make Safe Happen. You might be wondering why Nationwide is launching a child safety campaign. Nationwide has had a 60-year relationship with Nationwide Children’s Hospital and their Center for Injury and Research Policy. In fact, in 1954, they published a pamphlet titled “Your Child’s Safety,” which highlighted ways parents could keep their kids safer. They have always been committed to protecting what matters to you the most – your children.
The goal of Make Safe Happen is to reduce the number one cause of death among children – preventable accidents. The Make Safe Happen program includes an interactive website with safety tips that you can search by the age of your child, the room of the home, or by risk category such as water safety, tip-over prevention, poisoning, choking and strangulation, and fires and burns. There is also a free, easy to use, interactive app, available for both IOS and Android, which allows you to go through the same safety tip categories and even create a personalized to-do and shopping list for items you need to make your home safer!
Nationwide also realizes that even they cannot tackle these issues of home and child safety alone. They have also entered into partnerships with experts in the field of child safety, and together they will hold events, raise awareness, and continue to advocate for ways to make homes and children safer. Remember the Nationwide jingle? "Nationwide is on your side." They want to help you have a safer home.
Today, I'm very proud to announce the partnership of Meghan’s Hope with Nationwide and Nationwide Children's Hospital in their Make Safe Happen campaign, and to share their resources for child and home safety. I encourage you to visit MakeSafeHappen.com, download the Make Safe Happen app, and learn to make your home safer! Share these resources with your friends and family through social media and encourage them to do the same. In that way, they are also partnering with you! Just as you have helped to share Meghan’s story and raise awareness about tip-overs, you can help to Make Safe Happen! It’s been said it takes a village to raise a child. We are all part of that village and it takes all of us to keep our children safe!
Together, we can help you protect what matters most: Your kids. Together, we can Make Safe Happen!
Disclaimer: I am a paid spokesperson for Nationwide and the Make Safe Happen Campaign and have received financial, material, or other compensation in preparing this content. All opinions stated are my own.
February 1st is the Superbowl, but did you know January 31st is National TV Safety Day? Before the big game, whether you are hosting a Superbowl party or attending one, make the safety of that TV, be it new or old, your #1 priority! It might just save a life, perhaps that of your child!
Thank you for following the Meghan's Hope Spotlight on Safety blog. I hope you find it raises your safety IQ!
Kimberly is Meghan's mom and passionate about child and home safety. A mom of 3 and a dynamic and insightful educator, her hope is that no other parent ever know the pain of her loss.