Every parent worries about their kids’ safety, whether the concern is around bicycling, stranger danger or neighborhood bullies. As hard as it can be, it’s important for parents to teach kids how to look out for themselves (and their siblings). While many topics are covered at school or even on the playground, don’t assume kids have learned what they need to from another source. Here are some important tips to teach them first-hand:
Kids’ naturally curious minds want to know how things work. It is your job as their parent to make sure they know to leave these items alone, period.
Hardwiring fire safety into kids’ minds is key so that in a real emergency, they can quickly get past panic and do what they have been taught.
There is definitely strength in numbers. Whether they’re on the way home from school or on a field trip, make sure your kids know to stick together.
Today, many families don’t have a landline phone. Make sure your kids know how to call 911 from your phone (and have your password so they can). If they are too young to remember your address and other relevant information, post this somewhere convenient that they can reach. Be sure to also explain what is and is not a true emergency.
When you talk to your children about strangers, it’s important to keep the scary factor on the down low but also to make distinctions. Emphasize that all strangers aren’t bad, they’re simple people you don’t know. Explain who they can trust — police, firemen, teachers, restaurant or store employees. In some homes, the rule of thumb is that they can trust anyone with a uniform or a name tag.
Teach kids to trust their gut instinct when something just doesn’t seem right. Remind them that adults should never approach kids to ask for help — if an adult they don’t know approaches them asking for help, they should stay away. Trusting their instincts comes into play in interacting with other kids and with adults.
Talk with your kids about the best ways to react to a variety of different situations. Practice escape routes for fire or other emergencies. You don’t want to leave it to a child to figure out in a pinch when a real emergency happens. Knowing what to do will also help them keep their cool when put to the test.
Make sure kids know that it’s not ok for anyone — child or adult — to touch them in a way that they don’t like or on private areas of their body. And the reverse is true, they should not nudge, kick or hit other kids — even while playing. What seems like playing to one may not seem like playing to another.
This one can encompass a lot. Scenarios are different when biking versus walking, but the underlying theme remains the same — don’t cross the street until you know for sure it is safe to do so. This holds true even at stop signs. Too many drivers today are distracted by their smart phones or other technology, so your kids need to learn to walk and bike defensively.
As parents, there are many touchy topics that come up over the years. Personal safety is an important one. Parents can find ways to keep it fun by incorporating games for younger kids and by sharing examples with older kids. The time, effort — and yes, even awkwardness — that parents put in to prepare their kids is always well-spent.