5 critical safety rules that all children should know by the time they are 4-years-old
Keeping our children safe and out of harm's way is our most important job as parents.
This is by far easiest to do when children are babies – and young enough for you to always have them either in your arms or in a buggy you are holding on to.
But babies grow into toddlers and toddlers into children, and before you know it they will wander away when you are mid-supermarket shop or play out on the street in front of your house and have playdates and start school and generally learn to walk alone, little by little.
In other words, there will come a day when you are not there to protect them and keep them safe 100 percent of the time. And then it becomes important, crucial even, that you have talked to them about safety and what to do in scary or potentially harmful situations.
But some things are more important than others when it comes to what they should know, even from as young as four, and these five points are a good place to start, we think.
1. Body safety
Even really young children should know they are the ones who makes decisions about their own bodies and that they have the choice to say 'no' when it comes to all kinds of touching, even hugs and cuddles from relatives. Speak to your children about this, and make sure they know that hugging or kissing or touching should never be or feel forced.
One thing that is important to keep in mind is that it is not only adults who groom and manipulate children and initiate inappropriate touching – in fact; many studies have shown that most commonly, it is other children aged 18 and under.
The bottom line? Make sure your children know they control their own bodies – and that they should tell you about any situations where they feel or have felt uncomfortable.
2. Who to look to for help
If your children ever get separated from you, be it in a park, in a busy shopping centre or wherever, tell them to look for helpful people – I have always told my own children to grab a hold of another mum with young children or a buggy, because mums will always help children who can't find their own mum.
If they can't see another mum, tell them to look for a security guard or police officer.
3. Shopping centre or departement store
Children can so easily get separated from you while out shopping, be it because they wander - which children do – or because you just lose sight of each other for one reason or another. The important thing is that they know what to do in such in instance.
I have always told my children to stay put in the same place and either shout my name or stop someone safe and ask them to help. What you want to avoid is your kids being so panicked about not finding you that they start running around, maybe even leaving the store or getting so far out of your way that finding them will be even harder.
4. Staying safe in traffic
Traffic is all around us and it is vital that children know how to behave when in and around roads and vehicles. Road safety starts at home, in other words. Teach them (and practise over and over again) to look both ways before crossing the street, to stay on the footpath, to wait for the green man to walk, to take care when they see a car reversing and everything else they need to know to stay safe in traffic.
5. Phone number and address
Make sure your children know your full name, the address they live and your phone number. Practise it, make it into a game, do repeats of the information when you are in the car; whatever works, just make sure this is information they know.