As a parent or guardian, you’re responsible for protecting your children and teaching them tactics that can help keep them safe if you aren’t nearby. There are plenty of new dangers and threats compared to previous decades, but some skills have retained their value. Here are some safety rules all young children should learn:
1. Know Their Home Address and Phone Number
Make learning your address and phone number a priority. Write the information at the top of a piece of lined paper and ask your child to write their address repeatedly until they can do it from memory. Post the paper on the refrigerator for reference. Repeat this “lesson” every few days.
To help your child learn a phone number, take a cue from your local commercials and turn your number into a jingle. Sing your phone number jingle together periodically.
2. Know When and How to Call 911
Explain that calling 911 is for emergencies only, and give examples of what those emergencies might be. Explain that the operator will ask the child’s name and address, and that it’s alright to give that information in emergency circumstances. Tell your child to stay on the phone until help arrives. In case of fire, make sure they know to call 911 only after they’re safely outside the building.
3. Speak to Police or Other Uniformed Responders If Lost
We teach our children not to talk to strangers; not to open the front door for strangers; never walk anywhere with a stranger; and never get in a stranger’s car — but do we explain what to do if they become separated from us and the only people nearby are strangers?
If a child cannot locate a member of his or her family, teach your child to speak to a police officer, security guard or uniformed responder. If they have access to a phone, instruct them to call your phone number if they have it memorized, and then stay put until help arrives.
4. Understand That Adults Don’t Ask Children for Assistance
Children love to help. It makes them feel important and valued. Unfortunately, child predators know this. They try to befriend children by asking their assistance to hunt for a “lost” pet or search for a mystery address.
Teach your child that adults who need help will call 911 or seek out police, emergency responders or another grown-up for assistance — not children.
The same policy goes for any adult who asks a child to keep secrets. Explain to your children that if an adult asks them to keep “special” information just between the two of them, parents need to know this right away.
5. Know That Touching Is Not Allowed
No one is allowed to touch your child. Touching includes hugs, pats, shoves, pulls, punches, kicks and any other form of contact. Teach your children that they are the bosses of their bodies, and if anyone touches them — in any way — they should let you know immediately.
6. Remember That Family Information Is Private
All it takes is one bit of personal information to be spoken casually by your child in a crowded, silent elevator for you to realize the need to explain what “private” means. How do you teach what is and isn’t personal and private family information? Here’s an easy way to remember: All familyinformationis private.
Kids are too young to understand small talk and how to limit conversations to benign information about the weather or local sports team. Their primary source of information comes from what occurs inside their homes, and that’s typically nobody’s business. Teach your children that conversations that occur at home — including information about passwords, door codes, spare keys and vacation plans — should not be shared outside the house.
7. Trust Their Instincts
In addition to these lessons, teach your kids to trust their gut feelings. Encourage them to pause, reflect on the situation and think about how it makes them feel. If they feel uneasy, it’s always OK to leave an uncomfortable environment and talk to you about it.
AUTHOR BIO: Kids Car Donations is a national organization that accepts vehicle donations to better the lives of children. The organization partners with a number of well-known nonprofits serving children and teens who are confronted with physical, mental and emotional challenges to provide the care they need.