My name is Sally and my hobbies include cinema, books and obsessively worrying about my child having an accident.
There, I’ve said it.
I torture myself on a daily basis imagining the many ways my child could die or maim herself. Not for fun – I just can’t help it.
Why do I worry my child will have a terrible accident?
Flea will be playing happily in her bedroom and I’ll find myself wondering what would happen if she climbed on the wardrobe and it fell on her? (it can’t, the wardrobe is fixed to the wall, but logic is no comfort to a woman in my position).
Or Flea might be scampering around the garden and I’ll wonder what would happen if she somehow opened the locked garage door, climbed on a chair and drank paint stripper – after opening the child-resistant lid, obviously.
Much of my time spent worrying my child is going to have an accident is focused on choking. Flea had a horrible choking habit as a baby, and I’ve had to tip her upside down and whack her more times than I care to remember. For medical purposes only, obviously. It was a hugely traumatic moment for me, and has really, really stuck with me.
I’ve taken sensible precautions. I have done two paediatric first aid courses, and I keep the instructions for helping a choking child taped to the fridge, where I see them every time I make a coffee. I’ve never met a grape I didn’t slice length-ways. Also, I’ve explained to Flea about the importance of small bites, chewing carefully and never eating while you’re playing.
Still, I watch over Flea so carefully when she eats that she started to roll her eyes and say “I’m ONLY COUGHING” before she turned two. I just can’t help but feel she’s somehow dicing with death if someone gives her a slice of apple that has skin on it.
Does anyone else spend far too much time worrying about children getting hurt, or maimed, or worse?
At work today, I read a ROSPA report into accidents – how they happen, where they happen, how serious they are. You’d think the report would cheer me up. It’s full of actual facts about how unlikely these sorts of accidents are. For example, the risk of a child choking to death before their fourth birthday is only around 3 per million, while the risk of a fatal fall down a flight of stairs or from a window is actually less than one in a million.
Most Common Childhood Accidents
Except, did you know 900 children aged 0-4 are injured in falls from ladders EVERY YEAR? This, friends, is an injury I’d never even thought to worry about before. Although you’ve got to wonder, why would a toddler be up a ladder in the first place?
Then there’s the 1,800 children aged 0-4 who require treatment after falling over a toy in their own lounge. Who knew the lounge was such a danger zone? Or the 800 children who require treatment for poisoning each year – after eating cosmetics.
God, there are so many potential things I never even knew I could obsess about, completely irrationally. Bats, balls, trampolines, it’s endless!
Logical me knows that these accidents are rare, and often happen in risky environments. But they also happen to good parents like me, who do their best and just look away for a second, or forget something.
Coping with Anxiety about your Children
How do I stop myself from ending in a doom spiral where I’m just endlessly terrified my child is going to have a terrible accident?
These three tips have worked well for me:
Focus on a plan: I take practical, reasonable steps to mitigate the risks that I can. That means having fire alarms and stair gates, and preparing food in certain ways. Making sure I have regular first aid training gives me some reassurance that if an accident does happen, I’ll be able to help.
Distraction: Sometimes it’s also about just giving my anxious energy a new place to focus. Most often, I do this by getting outside and/or doing something physical that takes up my energy or my concentration. So I might walk the dog, or go for a swim, or just sort out the sock drawer. TikTok can also be a great way to distract yourself from reality.
Talk about it: Sometimes it’s good to just share out loud how you’re feeling. Because most of the time it’s not just you worrying about your child having an accident or getting hurt. ALL parents do it! By sharing your experience you might make someone else feel less alone, and gain the insight to laugh at some of your more extreme worries.
Anyway, must dash – I need to make sure the ladders are padlocked together. Just in case.