When should you start teaching your children safety skills? The answer is: NOW!
I hope you have find this list of safety skills helpful. My intent is not to scare or overwhelm you, even though it sure does scare and overwhelm me at times! These are just some topics that don’t come up in every day conversation that need to be addressed. I pray that you nor my family ever need to use these in real life, but if you ever do, your child and even YOU will be more prepared to take action.
1. Stranger Danger
Who remembers the creepy videos they showed in elementary school? Raise your hand if you remember the rhyme “stranger danger” that they beat into your head as a child? Me! Me! As an already paranoid person, I hated those days every year where we were taught that everyone around the corner wanted to kidnap us. I was already a super shy, tiny kid who barely spoke to anyone. The problem with stranger danger is that it is generally wrong. No, that is not a typo. Let’s bring it back to one of my favorite shows, Criminal Minds:
Jason Gideon: You know what program did the most harm to this country, in terms of crimes like this? Child abduction?
Det. Charlotte Russet: No.
Dr. Spencer Reid: Stranger danger.
Jason Gideon: Flooded the schools with it.
Dr. Spencer Reid: I remember them coming to my classroom. It was Officer Friendly with stranger danger coloring books.
Jason Gideon: Taught a whole generation about a scary man in a trench coat, hiding behind a tree. Then we learned that strangers are only a… fraction of the offenders out there. Most are people you see every day – your family, your neighbors, schoolteachers. You know the rest. Prepared our children for 1% of the danger, made them more vulnerable to 99%. So we’ve been wrong before. All we can do is learn from it, and hopefully be better next time.
Most strangers are ok. The keyword here is most, because this one gets tricky. I want my children, yes, even the shy one, to be polite to new people we meet. We are constantly meeting new people at church, school, and sports. I also want them to stay safe. We stay away from using terms like “stranger danger” because not all strangers are dangerous. What we have taught them, is that no adult should ask a child for help. If an adult needs help finding their puppy, or directions to the nearest bathroom, they will ask an adult. If they ask my children for help, my children know they are to run away and find me or my husband. Stranger danger is the wrong thing to teach if you are basing your assumptions on kidnapping and/or molestation because the majority of these things happen by people you and/or your children know.
2. Candy with permission
This is always fun around Halloween time or parades. We live in a sick world where we cannot always trust gifts from people. Take the time to check over the candy and little things your children receive at fairs, parades, parties, and on holidays. Another part to this bullet, and yes, this may seem a little strict, but think about it: medicine cabinets. Maybe your medicine cabinet isn’t like mine, but if it is, look through the eyes of your children: bright colors, perfect little shapes, tasty looking liquids. Obviously you’re going to try and keep medicines locked and out of the way at your own home, but what happens when they go to someone else’s house or find something that fell on the floor? Teach them if they see medicine or candy out, stop, and go get an adult.
3. Private areas
Even at the doctor’s office, you should be there with your child if the doctor has to examine that area. Please also teach your children that this should never be a secret. We don’t keep secrets from Mommy and Daddy. I try to stress that. I don’t want someone touching my child and my child be afraid to tell me because that person told them to keep it a secret. The whole thought makes me sick to my stomach, but we have to talk about this, especially in today’s age. Again, did you know that statistics show that most child molesters KNOW the children; I’m talking relatives, friends, and acquaintances…the people you see in your every day life. This is why the “no secret” thing should be stressed.
4. Fire safety
If there was a fire in your house, would you and your children know what to do? Where to go? I would love to think that if there was a fire, my children would run straight to the door, but the reality is that my kids would be scared and hide somewhere. I am trying to teach them to drop everything and run outside away from the blaze. I want them to know that firefighters are our friends and they will do their best to save our house and our things inside the house. If for some reason they get stuck in the house, the firefighters will help them and they should never hide from them or run away from them.
When my kids get a little bit older, I will teach them to call 911. It is your call as a parent/guardian to determine when your child is ready to learn this skill. I have already taught my oldest what our (his parents) full names are because telling someone that “mommy and daddy” are hurt/missing/lost won’t really help anyone. We are in the process of learning our address. Make sure to practice these little things, even with your toddler, because one day it could save their/your life.
6. Water safety
This one scares me so much. I am already afraid of deep water, but did you know that a baby/toddler/child can drown in just a few inches of water? Including a bathtub! With summer approaching, I know many of you have access to a pool and the number one vacation spot is the beach. Too many children drown every year, many accidental. Teach your child to be careful around water. This can include no running around a pool, no swimming without an adult present, no roughhousing around water, swimming lessons, proper flotation devices, etc.
7. It is never too late
Whether there is a bully on the playground hurting your child with words, someone they know touching them in places they shouldn’t, a friend trying to get them to eat this “candy” because it makes them feel funny, or someone trying to get them to keep a secret. It’s never too late to tell you. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Would they really lie about something like that? Ask questions, but never make them feel wrong. It probably took a lot of courage to get that secret out in the open, and they need to know that you love them no matter what.
Teaching these safety skills is ongoing. My children are two and four, so I know that they do not have the capability to fully understand everything that we talk about and practice Liam laughs every time we practice our “addess.” (His lisp is still so cute!) Our house number is still “Two Firteen.” We watch tv shows together that reinforce these things. Everyone learns better when they put these safety practices to song or rhyme! We enjoy reading books together and eventually we would like to perhaps tour a fire station, meet some more local police officers, and put these things into a calm practice exercise.