Every parent is concerned about their children’s safety. Alison Rhodes was no exception — until her baby passed away from SIDS. She then dedicated her career to helping other parents learn the best ways to stay safe—and sane. We spoke with Alison (AKA The Safety Mom) about keeping your kids safe but still giving them freedom and the top safety tips parents should know.
Alison, you become a safety expert after the loss of your first child.
My mission was born out of tragedy. My first child died of SIDS in 1997. Childhood accidents are the leading cause of death and most are preventable. After my son passed away, I thought if I could do something to
help another child, I would be doing something in honor of my son. I went on to have three more children, and my oldest, Spencer, has intellectual disabilities. And I realized that the dangers don’t stop once your children are out of diapers.
With so much information out there, it can be hard to discern what’s accurate and what’s not.
Absolutely. But I say that every mom is their child’s best safety expert. My website, Safety Mom Solutions, is about informing parents so they can get the right information for their kids. I talk about how moms are good role models and we need to take care of ourselves. My thing is about keeping families happy, safe and sane. We need the moms to have good self-confidence so they can pass it along to their kids.
What specific safety area do you feel the most strongly about?
It really spans safety for children of all ages, but I would say SIDS prevention. Parents are hyper vigilant when they bring their babies home, but then they start to get complacent after awhile. Sadly, a lot of baby proofing happens after something happens. It doesn’t mean being neurotic, but you have to take healthy steps. Kids can choke, and furniture can fall on kids. And now with teens, distracted driving is a huge issue.
You bring up a good point. We assume that safety issues are really for when kids are younger, but there are so many as they get older.
Exactly. You want to give them freedom, but you need to have a tether, too.
How do you personally walk that line of staying safe and still giving them freedom?
I’m a real spiritual person. You have to have faith. It’s instilling safety in them at an early age, and giving them that self-confidence. It’s communicating why you are doing this and it’s pragmatic parenting. You have to give them some flexibility; it’s not going to stop the dings, but it can help prevent the traumatic injuries.
What personal satisfaction do you get from what you do?
I was a high-powered exec at a PR firm and I loved what I did, but then my son died. And as much as I liked what I did, it wasn’t really changing lives. This is what fulfilled me. I can go to my kids’ events and activities. I can stop working to help my son with homework. It takes a village, for sure. But my kids see me fulfilled doing something that I love. It’s wonderful to wake up loving to work. If you hate what you do, and then you spend 8 hours a day there and then you come home and you’re miserable, what are you teaching your kids?
Now you’re a blended family. What is that like?
My husband walked into a huge package and somehow it all worked. The kids assimilated well; sure there are sibling rivalries, but it all works.
I loved your book, Honey I Lost the Baby in the Produce Aisle. It’s a nice blend of advice and personal anecdotes.
My life is out there; it’s a reality show. My father has Alzheimer’s. I came from an abusive marriage; my son is special needs and my first died of SIDS. Parents don’t want to share and for me writing is cathartic. I feel like
if one parent doesn’t feel alone or if I can share info, that’s huge for me. I get so many questions, so I figured if I put it all together, it could help people.
What are your future plans?
I’m pitching a TV show, a cross between Extreme Home Makeover and Dr. Phil. I want to get inspirational stores out there, and then I have a new book called OMG Save Me! The Safety Mom’s Guide to Understanding Your Teen. I want the book to be a conversation starter.
What’s an interesting safety tip that people might not know?
I’ve been working with Sylvania on their car headlights. Did you know that headlights dim 20% each year? So you need to change your headlights every two years.
What would be your top 3 safety tips for parents?
Start baby proofing before your baby comes home. You never know when your child will turn over for the first time, or start crawling. You want to be prepared.
Be your child’s safety advocate. Be confident in your abilities to make the right safety decisions for him or her. So get involved in your school. You know your child the best.
Cyber bullying starts so early. Teach tolerance at home. Watch the computer at home, and teach them to be good cyber citizens.