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Some parents are hypervigilant and overly anxious when it comes to what they will and won’t let their kids do. Others are more carefree than perhaps they should be.

“It’s complex,” says Dr. Andrew Markowski, an emergency medicine physician affiliated with Suburban Hospital. “As humans, we’re really bad at risk assessments.”

Markowski treats enough broken bones, lacerations and abrasions to prove it. And as the father of four daughters, ages 15, 13, 11 and 8, he is constantly evaluating how to keep them safe without going overboard.

How do you assess risk in parenting?
I always frame things in terms of known risks that I routinely accept. How does this compare to my likelihood of getting into a car accident or dying on the Beltway? Then I let that guide some of my decision-making, because that’s a risk I routinely undertake with them. And if I’m willing to accept that risk, how do these others compare to that?

In what ways are you hypervigilant?
I have a really low tolerance for head injuries, which can impact you for the rest of your life. My kids always…wear a helmet when they ride bikes or go ice skating.

What should always be off the table?
Kids should never touch fireworks, trampolines and ATVs—even those cute little motorized motorcycles. I’ve seen some horrendous injuries from all of the above.

So, no sparklers on the Fourth of July?
Those seem like they’re safe, but they’re shooting off flaming hot embers, and it drives me crazy when they’re put up against other people’s faces. You can get eye injuries that way. This should be a no-brainer.

What’s key for celebrating summer safely?
Teach pool safety early on. Unsupervised swimming is not even close to an acceptable risk. If you’re going on vacation with a pool, remember that everybody’s guard is probably down, and that’s where things can go awry. Do a safety check and limit or block access points so kids can’t wander out there and fall in.

Any other words of advice?
Adults would do well to heed my [fireworks] advice not to handle things that explode. There are professionals who can blow stuff up for you.

This story appears in the July/August issue of Bethesda Magazine.