Car accidents are typically frightening, regardless of the circumstances. If you have small children in the car with you at the time of the accident, the stress and danger of the situation increases. While each accident is different, knowing some basic information can help to reduce stress if you find yourself enduring this negative experience.

Check on Your Kids

This one hardly needs to be said, as this will be your instinct in an accident, but there are some specific things to look for when ensuring your children are safe after an accident. Children’s seats and seat belts restrain them to protect them, but this can become dangerous after an accident if you ended in a body of water or if the accident took place when it’s raining. Make sure your children are not in immediate danger, but do not try to move them if they are not. Wait for the paramedics to arrive, even if your child is complaining about a hurt limb or being stuck. You may injure them more if you try to move them unnecessarily. Attempt to calm and comfort your child. If your child is bleeding heavily, do what you can to staunch the flow. If they are nonresponsive or not breathing, still do not attempt to move them except for the bare minimum required to perform CPR if you know how.

Call 911

Of course, everyone knows to call 911 if serious injuries occurred. However, even when everyone appears to be fine, you still need to call the emergency authorities. In any car accident, people can experience effects after the accident. This is especially important when small children are involved. They may not know how to articulate what they are feeling, or they may not have the vocabulary at all to do so. As stated above, depending on the severity of the crash, try to keep your children from moving until a professional can ensure no spinal or other serious injuries have occurred. Make sure to follow the instructions of the 911 operator and let them know that children were involved in the accident.

Practice Safety

Before you ever get into an accident, it’s a good idea to have practiced or talked about what to do in dangerous situations with your kids. Talk to them about what to do in an accident, the importance of staying still unless they are severely injured, and how to call 911 themselves. After the accident, you want to ensure that everyone is as safe as possible. While certain situations may prevent you from moving, staying in the middle of the road in the car is dangerous. Remember—your children’s safety is more important than the car’s. Try to pull your vehicle to the side of the road, and if that is impossible, take your children out of the car, leaving everything else inside. Older children can help in unbuckling and shepherding younger children; just make sure everyone holds hands.

Document Details

It’s easy for parents to forget to take pictures of an accident, especially if they are focused on their children’s safety. If another adult was riding in the car with you, have this person document the damage or mind the children. Documenting the details of a car accident is important; when you need to hire a car accident attorney or report the information to your insurance company, you want to provide as much information as possible. Obviously the safety of your children must come first, but do not neglect to take pictures of the accident and get the other person’s insurance information, as this will help you to make a claim and pay for medical expenses. The police and EMTs will be able to help with making the area safe, so once they are there you can focus on documenting details of the accident.

Keep Your Children Calm

Being in a car accident can be scary, especially for small children. While your first goal should be to make sure everyone is safe, make sure to remember that your children may need emotional and physical comfort. If you are talking to safety officials or the other driver and there is another adult in the car, try to have them comfort the children. If you are alone, remember to modulate your voice and remain calm while explaining the situation with paramedics or the other driver—your behavior and tone will have a major effect on how your child interprets the situation. A simple gesture such as smiling at your child, holding his or her hand, or hugging him or her can go a long way in letting your child know that you are present and in control. If your child has been injured, make sure that you stay with him or her even if paramedics have taken over.

Trying to keep your children calm after an accident is certainly important. You also want to take some additional steps to make the short and long term future better for everyone.