Keeping our children safe from harm is the most important job to any parent.
But as with most jobs involving children, this is also one that keeps changing as your child grows older. From making sure they don’t fall down the stairs or eat dog food as toddlers! – to making them internet-aware throughout their lives, to being street-smart as teenagers, the stay safe umbrella is a wide one.
Being able to talk to your children about their safety and well-being, however, is vital. This is your chance to make sure they know how best to stay safe, and that they feel they can tell you about situations where they did not feel safe or where something seemed not right.
If you find talking about safety a little overwhelming, and struggle to think of exactly what it is they should know, here are some great guidelines to follow:
1. Public places
Make sure you talk to your children about always staying close to you or another adult when you are out in public. Even when they are out playing with other children, under-eights should know that they need to stay where a responsible and known adult can supervise them.
2. Name, address and telephone number
As soon as your child is old enough to learn and remember, you should teach them their full name, address and telephone number. Practise this with them until you are sure they know this. Make it a fun game to play with them.
3. Who and where to ask for help
In shopping centres, point out information desks as a meet place in case you get separated. Lecture children about who is safest to ask for help: A Garda, someone working in a shop or someone with a young child are all good choices.
4. Traffic safety
You can start this from they are still sitting in a buggy – explain the difference between red and green lights, why you need to stay on the footpath and why cars can be dangerous. Teach older children safe ways of crossing the road, how and who to ask for directions, and let them practice these with you until you are sure they have understood.
5. They are the bosses of their bodies
Let children know that they never have to do anything they don’t like with an adult or older child – even if it’s someone they know. Practice this at home by never making them kiss or hug an adult if they don’t want to.
6. Talk about what they see on TV and on the internet
Talk to children about what they have watched or played, both at home and also when they go to visit friends. Many TV shows and computer games contain scenes of violence, and talking about this and letting them know that this is both wrong and dangerous will help get your message across.
7. Online strangers
Make sure you talk to your children about never giving out information like their name, pictures, address, school or phone number to ANYONE. Let them know they should never, ever arrange to meet anyone they have met online.
8. Simple safety rules
Children can be taught basic safety rules from they are as young as two or three years old. Talk about how important it is they never wander off because mummy and daddy might not be able to find them. Tell them CLEARLY how they should never go off with anyone, not even someone they know, without asking your permission first.
9. Scream, kick and run
It is important – without making them scared or worried – to make sure your children know what to do in a situation where they are in danger. Should anyone try to make them come with them or make them get into a car, tell them to scream and run. Running in the opposite direction from the way the car is facing is a good tip, as it’s trickier to reverse a car and turning it around takes a moment or two. Tell them to look for a safe adult and to let that person know what just happened.
10. Let them know you will listen
Let your children know you will always listen to them and most importantly believe them when they tell you something. This is vital for getting the message across that they can come to you with whatever it might be that troubles them.
No matter how much you teach your child about safety, remember the limits of their age and maturity.
How and when do YOU discuss safety with your children? We’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas on how to approach the subject. Let us know in the comments or tweet us at @Herfamilydotie