Parents always want to protect their children. Now, with children spending more and more time away from home, going to and from school and in between friends’ homes and babysitters, the need to keep children safe is even greater.
Teaching children safety tactics and preparing them for danger before it happens certainly doesn’t mean scaring children or making them live their lives in fear. It means protecting and stopping something before it happens.
Developing a set of instructions for your children for certain situations is a useful way to begin. These instructions will be discussed and revised as needed and cover dangerous situations. Remember however, that discussing events one time isn’t enough, bringing the topic up again and again at different time periods help create a sense of remembrance in children, in which their memory recall will become sharp if they need that information. Don’t pile all the information on them at once–start with the basics first and work up to the bigger things. The small blocks of information they receive, the easier it will be for them to piece everything together later. Eventually, these rules and information will become ‘natural’ for them, as natural as sleeping and eating.
A good rule of thumb for safety information is, rules for boundaries (where the child can and cannot go), public behavior around strangers, a fire in the home, behavior around traffic, home behavior in case a stranger calls or comes to the door and behavior regarding sexual misconduct.
Try playing the “What If?” game with your child. It’s easy and only requires you, your child and questions about proper behavior around dangerous situations. Ask your child what if questions such as, “What if a fire broke out in the home? What would you do?” And let your children respond. Don’t become frustrated if your child cannot answer the correct way at first. Your job is to help and guide your child to the correct way of handling dangerous situations. Once one question has been asked, move onto the next. There are countless questions that can be asked during this game (We were separated when we were out? A stranger wanted you to get into his car? Etc), continue asking questions until you cannot ask anymore. When you are finished, go back over the ones your child had a hard time with. Ask them again and give them time to answer, slowly guiding them to what they should do if they cannot remember.
Play this game every day in your free time or on the way to a shopping trip. This is useful if you do become separated in a store and your child needs help.
Posting emergency phone numbers by the phone or on the fridge helps children easily reach numbers if needed. Try working with your child’s school for a community outreach program that helps teach children what to do in emergency situations. Crafts can be created to help children understand what to do in certain situations and some crafts can be used to help foster remembrance in children. Remember, it is never your fault, nor your child’s if something happens. You’re never pestering your child to ask questions and to remind them every now and then about the dangers of people, places and events, and what they can do to keep safe.