Do you know who Paula Ebert is? She’s the overprotective mom in the funny Capri Sun commercial. It’s funny because if you are a parent, you totally understand Paula’s desire to protect her child at all costs, even at the risk of making a fool of herself. But for every parent, there is that gut wrenching moment when you realize that you cannot protect your child from the world. And if you don’t want to think about it, there is usually some awful news story that will remind you. The reality is that no matter hard you try, at some point you will lose sight of your child. If and when this happens, you know what to do. But does your child know what to do?
Teaching your child how to stay safe as they continue to explore their independence and test boundaries, is as important as teaching them their ABC’s. As the frenzy of holiday shopping and large crowds is upon us, take a minute to see how your child might answer the six questions below:
1. What is a stranger and why are they dangerous?
When Journey was about 3, I bought a book to help lead our safety discussion called “Don’t Talk To Strangers.” This easy-to-follow book covers various situations that children face each day—from being approached by someone they actually know, to internet danger, to being offered candy—and the safest way to handle them.
2. What does a “bad person” looks like?
When asked this question, Journey (like most kids) described a scary, monster-like figure. I had to explain that a bad person does not wear a mean face and may look just like mommy, daddy, their teacher and many other safe people they know.
3. What are the rules to remember before leaving the house?
I realized that telling Journey not to talk to strangers was not enough—especially when often times, I asked her to do the exact opposite. How many times have you made small talk with a stranger and encouraged your child to “say hello”? Journey actually brought this to my attention and made me realize I was sending her mixed messages. So to be clear, I emphasized that she is only allowed to speak to strangers if we are together. If she is not by my side, she is not to speak to anyone. Period. She also knows that she must stay close to me (which = 5 paces away) and not run ahead of me or wander away.
4. Do you know what to do if you get lost?
No matter how many rules are in place, at some point or another, they will be broken. Journey knows if she does get lost, she should:
- NOT leave the store or whatever area that we are in.
- Go to a counter or register to ask for help (if we are in a store).
- Ask a police officer, security guard or a mom (described as a woman who has children with her) for help.
Depending on where we are going, I have also found it helpful to identify security guards and employee uniforms upon arrival so that she knows exactly who to look for if she gets lost.
5. What do you do if someone touches you or tries to take you away?
In the event that the absolute WORST happens and someone tries to abduct your child, they should know what to do to escape to a safe place. I tell Journey to:
- Yell as loud as she possibly can.
- Kick, scream, scratch, do whatever it takes to alert those around her and get away.
6. Do I talk to you enough about saying safe so that you remember what to do when something goes wrong?
None of these tips will matter if you only tell your child once or twice. When I first bought the book, we read and the discussed it several times a week at the beginning and continue to read it often so that she remembers the helpful tips. I also use weekly outings as opportunities to casually quiz her about safety dos and don’ts. Depending on the nature, I may share a news story or show her a video of an attempted abduction and what the child did to get away. The point of this is not to scare her, but rather give her the strength and courage to handle herself in different situations.
Journey thought this information might sound better coming from one kid to another, so she recorded a video that you can share with your child.
In Journey’s words, “Stay safe kids!”
Got any other great safety tips? Please leave comments and I will share.