Texas Parenting News
Teach your family how to use 9-1-1
Dialing 9-1-1 sounds straightforward enough, but we need to know the basics in case of emergency.
Don’t tell children to dial “nine-eleven.” This can cause confusion because there’s no eleven on the keypad. Tell them to dial “nine-one-one.”
Use the number for emergencies, such as when you see:
a car wreck,
a crime being committed, or
a medical emergency.
Medical emergencies can include a person bleeding, having trouble breathing, experiencing pain or tightness in the chest, fainting, having a seizure, and being burned over an area larger than your palm.
Don’t be afraid to dial 9-1-1 because you don’t know whether a real emergency exists. The dispatcher will know what to do. Better safe than sorry.
What to say when you call
State your name, phone number, and the address where help is needed. The dispatcher needs to know:
What’s the location?
How old is the person (approximately)?
Is the person conscious or breathing?
What’s your callback number (in case you’re
An estimated 70 percent of 9-1-1 calls are made from wireless phones. Wireless mobile phones are not associated with one fixed address, which means you must be prepared to say your address or name a landmark. Landline phones, by contrast, are connected to a computerized system that instantly provides the dispatcher with your phone number and address.
Help your children memorize your home address (street name and number) or a description of your location or a landmark (“yellow house near the Plaza shopping center,” for example).
Post your address—606 Elm Street, for example—at the driveway entrance to your home to avoid confusion by emergency personnel.
Answering the dispatcher’s questions may take less than 30 seconds. You may be advised to get out of an unsafe situation or stay on the line. Many dispatchers are trained to help you provide CPR or first aid while waiting the 5-10 minutes for an ambulance, fire truck, or police.
If a caller does not speak English, the dispatcher may be able to add a translator on the line.
When NOT to call
Don’t call 9-1-1 for less serious situations, such as getting a phone number through directory assistance, paying a traffic ticket, or helping your sick pet.
What if you call by mistake?
If you or a child calls 9-1-1 by mistake, stay on the line and say it was a mistake. Otherwise the dispatcher won’t know if you’re all right and may send emergency personnel to check on you.
Teach children that 9-1-1 calls are serious. Prank calls waste time, may endanger getting help to someone who really needs it, and are illegal in most states.
Other three-digit phone numbers are available in some locations if you’re seeking information or reporting a problem. To find out if your area is equipped with these numbers, call 3-1-1 or the number in question.
2-1-1: Referrals for public and private health and human services. For example, you can ask about child care, health care for expectant mothers, homeless shelters, food banks, affordable housing, alcohol and drug abuse counseling, mental health treatment, and programs such as Medicaid and Medicare.
3-1-1: Non-emergency government services. You can get information, make a complaint, or report problems. For example, you can ask about voter registration, report a broken water meter, complain about trash collection, ask about removal of graffiti or an abandoned car, or report road damage.
4-1-1: Directory assistance, which is the same as (area code)-555-1212. But the service is not free. Check your telephone company service plan for the cost.
5-1-1: Traffic or weather information in some cities.
6-1-1: Your cell phone provider.
7-1-1: Service that allows people with a hearing or speech disability to converse with a hearing person through an operator. Ordinarily people with this disability use a TTY (text telephone) device.
8-1-1: One-call center for homeowners and contractors before they dig in the ground to avoid hitting buried utility lines.
To learn more, check these websites:
“Medical Emergencies.” (2002). Brochure of the American Safety and Health Institute and National Academies of Emergency Dispatch, www.nh.gov/safety/divisions/emergservices/nh911/pubinfo/documents/med-emergency.pdf.
“Top 10 Tips for Calling 9-1-1.” (No date). NENA (National Emergency Number Association): The 9-1-1 Association, www.nena.org/?page=
Helping children cope with absent parents
Jonathon, age 3, lives with his grandmother. “Do I have a mommy?” he asks. “Where is she?”
Marcie, age 4, asks her single mother, “Who is my Daddy? Why doesn’t he live here with us?”
Arnoldo, age 6, who has just learned that he was adopted, wants to know: “Why did they give me away? Didn’t they want me?”
These children have realized a difference between their families and those of other children. They are too young to understand the absence of one or both parents from their lives, but they almost certainly feel heartbroken and abandoned.
The reasons for a parent’s absence can vary enormously. Perhaps a mother was sent to prison, a father felt a family would tie him down, or a pregnant teenager couldn’t afford to take care of a baby. Whatever the situation—illness, abuse, poverty, shame, irresponsibility, death—a child’s current parent or guardian needs to answer the questions and give reassurance.
Experts advise that you consider a child’s age and developmental level. Be prepared in advance to give simple, caring responses. Expect to repeat the same answer many times because a child may ask the same questions over and over again.
Consider the following guidelines for building a sense of security.
Avoid long, complicated explanations. State the real reason as simply as possible. For example: “She did something wrong, so she’s gone somewhere to learn to do better.” “He wasn’t ready to be a father.” “They loved you but weren’t able to take care of you.”
Don’t bad-mouth the missing parent. Who are we to judge a parent’s situation?
Make it clear that it’s not the child’s fault. “You’re not to blame. Nobody is. Sometimes things like this just happen.”
Allow the child to express thoughts and feelings. Listen rather than lecture. Keep the child’s sharing confidential to build trust.
Show empathy and affection. “Yes, I know you’re (confused, hurting, sad).” Support the child in the moment.
Affirm the child’s positive qualities. Emphasize effort over appearance or intelligence. Be specific. “You really worked hard to learn how to write your name.” “Wow! You got dressed all by yourself.”
Encourage the child to form relationships with other children and adults who will share love, trust, and hope.
Parenting often demands flexibility
I was playing with Joey outside, and it wasn’t working,” says Denise, a young mother. “He was fussing, and I was tired of pulling him in the wagon. I checked his diaper, which was OK, and then picked him up kicking and screaming and went into the house.”
Shaking her head, she continues: “I washed his face with a wet towel, offered him a graham cracker, and found a cardboard box for him to play with. He finally settled down, and so did I,” she says, a smile breaking out on her face.
Like many parents, Denise wants control and order in her life. But raising a child, regardless of age, can be frustrating at times. Staying flexible can help. Consider these tips:
It’s OK to change the schedule. Denise had planned to play with Joey in the yard while the sun was shining and then prepare dinner. But she realized she needed to change her plan—and her mind.
Accept that some things are out of your control. Weather, mechanical breakdowns, and illness are some examples. Trips to the grocery store and even doctor appointments can be rearranged.
The child’s well-being takes priority. Denise recognized that Joey was not comfortable, so she checked his diaper and offered a snack. But children can get upset for other reasons and for no reason at all. She offered a different activity to divert the child’s attention, and it worked.
Emotions need not rule decisions. Denise could have become angry and anxious, but she stayed calm. Both she and her toddler eventually settled down.
Parenting is often a process of learning by trial and error. No parent is perfect, and everyone makes mistakes from time to time. The trick is to mature alongside children and learn from mistakes.
Routines help children feel secure. Regular times for meals, play, naps, and bathing provide structure, but they need not be rigid. It helps to keep an open mind and strive for balance.
Parenting is hard to do alone. It’s OK to ask for help from a partner, relative, neighbor, or friend. Many churches and other organizations have Mother’s Day Out programs that can give moms a break. Two or three families can take turns caring for each other’s children in a cooperative arrangement.
Confidence in our parenting develops as we accept and value ourselves. We can focus more on what we have done well and less on what we could have done better.