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Prevention Presents: Personal Safety

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 donna-bacon

Personal Safety Techniques for Kids
Donna Bacon, M.Ed., LSC
Prevention Education Specialist 

When our children are very young we are constantly on the lookout for dangers, both real and imagined.  We are in control of almost everything – but we can’t keep that control for very long before it’s time to hand it over to our inexperienced offspring.  Teaching our kids "Personal Safety" starting at a young age is an important part of parenting. Here are just a few suggestions...    

Often parents are encouraged to warn their children about “Stranger Danger,” but while the rhyme is easy to remember, this phrase can lead to confusion. Children who are taught "stranger danger" may be afraid to ask helpful strangers for assistance when they ned it or might not know how to recognize and avoid risky situations. Instead of teaching “stranger danger,” try the following tips when talking to your child about abduction prevention safety:

Don’t say: "Never talk to strangers."
Say: "You should not approach just anyone. If you need help, look for a uniformed police officer, a store clerk with a nametag, or a parent with children."

Don’t say: "Stay away from people you don’t know." 
Say: "It’s important for you to get my permission before going anywhere with anyone."

Don’t say: "You can tell someone is bad just by looking at them."
Say: "Pay attention to what people do. Tell me right away if anyone asks you to keep a secret, makes you feel uncomfortable, or tries to get you to go with them."

Another vitally important skill for children is to be aware of their surroundings.  In the age of Snapchat and social media, the focus of youth is typically self-centered, not on the world or  people around them.  Playing memory games can be an excellent way to tune kids into what’s going on.  Using a "Guess Who?" format, take elements of the game into the real world, asking questions about people and places you visit to help the child recall details. As they get older, challenge them to tell you where in the city they are, what type of people are in their vicinity, etc. – expect age-appropriate detail.  A good suggestion is to have kids scan every place they go into as if they were looking for you in a crowded restaurant. 

Finally, teaching our kids to be assertive (not aggressive!) will enable them to gain confidence and stay safe – whether from bullies, peer pressure, abductions, or other unpleasant situations.  Being assertive means to stand up for yourself in a calm but firm manner – it’s a skill that gets better the more it is practiced. 

We can’t be with our kids every second, but we can teach them to be safe.  Defining "strangers," training them to always be aware of their surroundings, and to act in an assertive manner will definitely increase your child's “personal safety” – and your peace of mind.

For more information and resources about personal safety, visit http://www.kidsmartz.org/StrangerDanger and http://afineparent.com/emotional-intelligence/street-smart.html.

 

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