We believe that it is more important than ever to teach our children about safety. Young kids are being abducted, abused and assaulted at alarming rates and in most cases, right in their own communities. They need to be made fully aware about keeping safe around strangers and also about setting boundaries with those that they know.
During this guide we want to share some simple things that you can do to teach your children about safety but the most important thing that any parent can do is to have good communication with their child.
I remember when I was growing up my parents would scream and shout at me over the smallest of mistakes so what did I do? I grew to fear them as a child rather than trust them enough to go to them with my problems. If I needed help with something I would keep it to myself for fear of them kicking off at me again. I withdrew. Please do not do this with your children. They shouldn’t fear you, they need to know that they can tell you anything without you telling them off. Have patience with them and respect them.
One thing that is sure to keep any safety advice in their mind is to give that advice through a series of games. If you just tell them about all the bad things that a stranger may do, it could just make them more anxious and so we teach them in a way in which they can actively participate.
The ‘What if…’ Game
The ‘What if…’ game is a great way of looking at various possible scenarios and can be played literally anywhere from the home, the car, and whilst out walking. Try to think about situations that your children may face and listen as you let them explain their answer before giving the correct advice. To keep them interested, you could take it in turns. You could ask the first question and then let them ask you something. You could make it more interesting by acting out each scenario as you play along. Some ideas to get you started could include:
- What if there is a fire in the home
- What if a stranger tries to make you go with them (Get them shouting NO as loud as they can)
- What if someone knocks on the door when you’re home alone (older children only obviously)
- What if a car pulls up alongside you and asks if you would like a ride
Hunting for Dangers
There are potential dangers to be found in every home and it is important that your children understand these dangers and how to keep themselves safe at the same time. Turn it into a fun game by taking them on a hunt around the home and seeing how many hazards they can find. This could include wall sockets, cluttered stairs and electrical wires to name just a few.
As you go along ask them how they think is best to keep safe around or deal with those dangers such as keeping the stairs clear of toys and covering wall outlets. Give them a few options for each danger, one right and one wrong, and see if they can choose the right answer.
Fire safety officers are usually more than happy to give demonstrations to your children about fire safety in a safe environment. They can learn the correct things to do in the event of a fire which will help to reduce the fear if it should ever happen for real.
You could also regularly perform fire drills at home so that the correct procedure is always fresh in their mind. Use a bell or an alarm to sound the start of the drill at any time throughout the day and see how your child responds. Block the main route out of the home and see what they would do if it really happened.
The Freeze! Game
The next game that you could consider playing with your children is the Freeze! game. Act out your child becoming lost in the supermarket and make sure that the rules of stopping, staying where they are and not going anywhere with anyone are followed. It is the parents’ job to retrace their steps to find the child instead of everyone going off in opposite directions. Should someone offer help, the child can ask the stranger to wait with them but they should never leave the area.
You need to be very careful when it comes to things like stranger danger because not every stranger means your child harm. There are stories of children that hid under their beds during a fire and refused to come out when firemen were trying to help because they saw them as a danger. For this reason I believe it is better to teach your children skills and behaviours that you want your child to use to keep safe rather than focusing on the bad things that could happen.
Let your children know that most people are good but there are a few that are bad. Make sure that they know the uniforms used by the police and fireman and know that those kinds of people can be trusted if your child is in danger. If children are by themselves, the safety rule is to come and check with an adult first before getting close to or talking to anyone that they don’t know well and to always let you know where they are going.
Have a Safety Code Word
A safety code word is a word that both the parents and the children know and can be used for:
- If you need to send somebody to pick your child up from school in an emergency, let the adult know the safety code word. Your child should know that that adult can be trusted if they use the word.
- Your child can use the safety code word in a sentence over the phone to let you know that they are in danger and you need to get there immediately.
- Have a plan as to what your child should do if YOU ever use the safety code word. If you are walking through a dangerous area and use the word then maybe your child should run in the opposite direction and get help.
The safety code word is not always reliable but it can be very effective. Your children MUST know that they should never tell anybody the safety code word. Role play with your child and see if you can trick them into giving you the word but don’t yell at them if they tell you, explain why they shouldn’t in a calm way.
These safety code words should only ever be used once and then changed to a new word. The reason being that most dangers do not come from strangers but from people the child knows well such as family members. If you need to send a family member to pick your child up, they should use the safety code word but then it should be changed to a new word so that that same person can’t use it without your knowledge.
Test Your Children
A lot of children today are very good at ‘acting’ like they’re listening when in reality they are thinking about something completely different. This is why it is so important that you put your child to the test. When around peers, many children are willing to ignore safety in order to improve their status and this is when they are most at risk. If you know your teens friends well then you could ally with them to run a test and see how your children respond.
Have something you would like to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below.