I grew up with the Edwards boys, Eddie, Freddie and Paulie, I’ll call them. Paulie was the youngest and his face and hands were terribly scarred. Eddie and Freddie had found some matches and gone out back and set a fire, bringing Paulie along to watch. Somehow Paulie was the one who ended up disfigured in this misadventure which turned into a family tragedy.

Most of us don’t leave loaded guns lying around the house, or sharp knifes when there are children present, yet we leave matches, lighters and fireworks where they are readily accessible for children.

Did you know that in the US about half of all intentionally-set fires are set by children, causing tremendous property damage and sometimes tragic disfiguring of the child, and loss of life?

Why children set fires varies, according to the experts.
Michael Slavkin, Ph.D., who works with fire departments on juvenile fire-setting prevention and treatment believes fire-starting can signify underlying psychological problems. The child may be using fire-setting to communicate pain, depression or anger.

However, younger children especially may play with fire out of curiosity. They don’t really understand the danger involved.

One thing on which all agree is that if the matches or lighter weren’t available, the fire couldn’t have been started.

In Orange County, California, where 40-60% of the reported fires are started by 2-18 year olds, psychologist Ken Fineman, Ph.D. helped to start a coalition for education and treatment. He says multiple factors contribute to fire-setting such as “personality characteristics and family and social circumstances.”

If your child is unhappy and experiencing problems, there should be other clues – behavioral changes, changes in eating or sleeping habits or school performance, isolation, aggression. But fires are also started out of curiosity and because children don’t understand that fires can cause harm.

Responsible parents educate their children about the hazards of fire, have fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, and an escape plan in place and known to all family members, and not only put away but lock up matches and lighters. Caution should be taken in the use of candles when there are young children present as well, and children should always be supervised around open flames such as gas stoves and fires in fireplaces.

Without taking the necessary precautions, says Dr. Slavkin, “it’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt.”

Author's Bio: 

©Susan Dunn, MA Psychology, Emotional Intelligence coach, http://www.susandunn.cc. Susan is the author of “How to Develop Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence” and offers coaching and Internet courses for persona development. Mailto:sdunn@susandunn.cc for free ezine; put “ezine” for subject.